Abortion Fight Defines Kansas Prosecutor Race
There is no escaping abortion politics in Wichita, where the race between two Republicans for district attorney could come down to who voters believe is a stronger opponent. The campaign highlights how the debate has changed since an activist gunned down one of the country’s few remaining late-term abortion providers in 2009.
Wichita became a focal point of the national fight over abortion rights early on with mass protests and the unsuccessful prosecution of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Today, the city no longer has an abortion clinic, and Republicans who control the governor’s office and state Legislature have enacted even tighter restrictions on those that exist elsewhere in the state.
The abortion rights supporter who served as Wichita’s top prosecutor for 24 years, Nola Foulston, is leaving office with no Democrat running to replace her. That means whoever wins Tuesday’s Republican primary essentially wins the job.
Kevin O’Connor, a former assistant district attorney in Wichita who now works as a special prosecutor for the Kansas attorney general’s office, is running against deputy district attorney Marc Bennett. O’Connor has support from Kansans for Life and other high-profile anti-abortion activists, while Bennett has the perhaps too-visible support of his boss.
To understand why that’s a liability in this race, it’s important to note that Scott Roeder — the abortion opponent serving a life sentence for killing Tiller — once told The Associated Press that he believed the doctor would never be brought to justice as long as Foulston was in office.