- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback tried to paint his Democratic challenger as a state-level soldier for President Obama’s agenda while using a debate Tuesday as an attempt to nationalize the election and defend his tax cuts.

State Rep. Paul Davis, the Democrat trying to unseat Mr. Brownback, criticized the governor’s economic plan. Mr. Brownback cut taxes in an attempt to jump-start the economy, but analysts said the move sapped money from the state government and hit public schools.

“When you’re in a hole, you need to stop digging,” Mr. Davis said. “The governor’s one-size-fits-all experiment just isn’t working.”

Mr. Brownback and Mr. Davis met at the Kansas Association of Broadcasters’ annual meeting in Wichita for the fourth and final debate before Election Day.

Mr. Brownback is less than a point ahead of his opponent. RealClearPolitics called the race a tossup after Mr. Davis‘ slim lead in August and September evaporated this month.

Kansas should have been easy territory for Republicans this year, but dissatisfaction with Mr. Brownback’s tax breaks put the incumbent in a difficult position. Sen. Pat Roberts and Secretary of State Kris Kobach are other Republicans fighting to keep their seats in surprisingly close races in Kansas.

Faced with voter backlash, Mr. Brownback has adopted the national Republican election strategy of portraying the election as a choice between himself and an Obama surrogate.

Mr. Brownback said Mr. Davis would reverse his tax cuts and foist increases even on Kansans earning $15,000 or less.

“Change is difficult, and this has been difficult, and we are moving now in the right direction,” Mr. Brownback said. “Mr. Davis represents the Obama agenda, and that means higher taxes and more government.”

Education emerged as a key issue. Mr. Davis said his first priority as governor would be to restore cuts made to public education during Mr. Brownback’s term.

“It’s a personal issue to me,” Mr. Davis said. “Our daughter will walk into a public school classroom for the first time next year, and I want her to have the very same opportunities I had growing up.”

The candidates also battled over same-sex marriage. Mr. Davis said he opposed Kansas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman but would respect the vote that overwhelmingly approved the language.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to allow same-sex marriages in Kansas after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for such unions in other states this month.

The court will hear the case Friday. Mr. Davis noted that the issue is in the hands of the justices, not the candidates.

Mr. Brownback said marriage should be limited to the union of a man and a woman.

Paul Davis wants to continue to appoint liberal judges to that court. I want to appoint judges who will interpret the law, not rewrite it as they choose to see it to be,” he said.

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