The winner of a Democratic primary for a Kansas legislative seat -- contested by an anti-gay, pro-life incumbent, who lives in a church, and the openly gay son of a former Ku Klux Klan member -- will face off against a socially liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Republican.
Republican Dakota Bass told The Huffington Post that he entered the race against Rep. Jan Pauls (D-Hutchison) to oust the incumbent based in part on her conservative stance on LGBT issues. Bass, a 20-year-old railroad conductor, stepped down as the co-chairman of the Kansas Progressive Caucus, a group affiliated with the state Democratic Party, days after he entered the Republican primary.
Bass said his candidacy as a Republican was primarily a political strategy to get a spot in the general election, since no other Republican has entered the race.
"I saw my opportunity was far greater to run as a Republican than as a Democrat. I am a moderate Republican," Bass said.
Most of Bass' platform puts him at odds with Gov. Sam Brownback (R) and the conservative wing of the state GOP. Bass indicated that he is in favor of same-sex marriage and that he "believes strongly" in pro-choice issues. He also said he wanted to turn back Brownback's cuts to education funding and the tax plan the governor signed into law last month, which eliminates most corporate taxes and cuts many personal taxes.
"The tax plan that [Brownback] came out with, I was not in favor of that," Bass said. "He put the state at risk of billions in debt in a few years."
Bass did say that while he considers himself "socially liberal," he also considers himself a "fiscal conservative." Bass is a former board member of the Hutchison chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, as is Erich Bishop, Pauls' Democratic opponent. The Equality Coalition, the state's LGBT advocacy group, has dedicated itself to defeating Pauls and has thrown its support behind Bishop. Bass said he expects to continue in the general election in the event Bishop defeats Pauls in the primary.
Bass' candidacy is the latest twist in a race that has had several since redistricting forced Pauls into an almost brand new district earlier this month. Pauls then moved her residence into an abandoned church that she owns, a move that was challenged by the Equality Coalition. The state Objections Board, controlled by three Republican state officials, unanimously voted Tuesday to allow Pauls to move legally into the church.
"Her decision to move into her church is almost reckless," Bass said. "She claims to own an empty duplex next door. I'd move into that duplex."
Pauls has established herself as a vocal opponent of LGBT issues. She authored the state's ban on gay marriage and has pushed a constitutional amendment on the subject. Last year, Pauls led an effort to keep the state's sodomy ban on the books and has opposed adding sexual orientation as a protected category to the state's civil rights laws.
Bishop, a 28-year-old nursing assistant who said his father left the KKK several years ago, said that he is running primarily on property tax issues, but noted his opposition to Pauls' LGBT views.
Pauls did not return a message left for comment at her home.
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