By John Celock
Two of the Kansas Republicans who received campaign donations from top Democrats won their primaries Tuesday night, while a third lost.
Buried in the campaign finance reports filed last week showed state Democratic Chairwoman Joan Wagnon and Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Jill Docking taking the rare step of donating money to Republican candidates facing contested primaries. Wagnon and Docking made the donations in races for the state Legislature and the state Board of Education, where no Democratic candidates had filed. Results show that Wagnon and Docking had better luck with the education candidates.
State Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Sally Cauble (R), who received $100 from Wagnon and $250 from Docking, defeated her opponent high school principal Meg Wilson 55 percent to 45 percent in the western Kansas district. For an open Board of Education seat outside of Wichita, Republican retired schools superintendent Jim Porter, who received $250 from Docking, defeated high school biology teacher Martin Burke 57 percent to 43 percent. Moderate Republican Barbara Bunting, who received $50 from Wagnon, was defeated in her state House primary by state Rep. Marc Rhoades (R-Newton). Rhoades won 58 percent to 42 percent.
Wagnon told The Celock Report over the weekend that she did not find a problem with supporting Republican candidates in contested primaries where no Democrat was running. She said she was looking to back the best candidate.
“I don’t want to speak for Jill, but she and I are the kinds of Democrats who look for the best candidates we can find and sometimes those are Republicans,” Wagnon said over the weekend.
A spokesman for Docking did not return messages left for comment over the weekend.
Wagnon and Docking’s involvement in the races did prompt objections from state Republicans. Republicans were also questioning the involvement of the Kansas Values Institute, a 501(c)(4) chaired by a former senior campaign advisor to President Barack Obama, on behalf of moderate GOP candidates in contested primaries. At the time some were questioning the involvement of the state GOP in contested primaries.
“Make a statement that ‘I do not want to receive money from prominent Democrats,’” state Republican Party political director Heath Kohl told The Celock Report over the weekend. “For the Democratic nominee to openly come out and give money, that doesn’t pass the smell test. It is called financially endorsing. It is the same thing with the KVI, and they say that they cannot control the money, then denounce it.”
In Saline County, moderate state Rep. Diana Dierks (R-Salina) defeated her conservative challenger Tom Bell, in a race that centered in part on Dierks’ history with the Democratic Party. Dierks, who was backed by KVI, had unsuccessfully sought the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination in 1994 and had received support from Saline County Democratic Chairman Phil Black in the primary. Dierks does not face a Democratic opponent in the fall.