TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas Republican Party criticized a Tuesday barbecue to boost support among teachers for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis because it was held at a state Supreme Court justice's home.
The state GOP issued a statement saying the event demonstrates a "cozy relationship" between Davis, who is hoping to unseat Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in the Nov. 4 election, and "liberal members of the court" who operate under rules that require them to avoid partisan politics.
The barbeque was organized by Richard Green, who is a retired Topeka High School social studies teacher, with the local leader of the state's largest teachers' union. Green is married to state Supreme Court Justice Carol Beier, and a flier for the cookout — which was held in their backyard — suggested a $20 donation.
Davis' campaign called the event an "informational meeting" for local teachers and said neither Davis nor Jill Docking, his lieutenant-governor running mate, ever planned to attend. Beier also wasn't attending and told The Associated Press that she had no role in the planning.
The GOP statement called the barbecue "highly inappropriate" and said it raised "numerous ethical questions" for Davis, an attorney, and the judicial branch.
"Kansas deserves better from both the Court and Paul Davis," said state GOP Executive Director Clay Barker, also an attorney.
Davis spokesman Chris Pumpelly accused Republicans of resorting to "manufactured outrage." Green called the GOP's criticism "a fuss about nothing," noting that donations were not required.
Beier said during a brief interview that the event was her husband's alone.
"I've taken care not to be involved in it," she said.
Beier was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2003 by then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Four justices on the seven-member court were appointed by Sebelius and two were named by her predecessor, moderate Republican Gov. Bill Graves. One position is open because the first appointee of Brownback, a GOP conservative, won't join the court until December.
Davis campaign: http://www.davisforkansas.com/
Brownback re-election campaign: http://www.brownback.com
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