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Jan Pauls, Kansas Lawmaker, Narrowly Wins Democratic Primary

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Kansas state Rep. Jan Pauls (D) and her husband, Ron, watch the recounting of votes. (Sandra Milburn / AP)
Kansas state Rep. Jan Pauls (D) and her husband, Ron, watch the recounting of votes. (Sandra Milburn / AP)

An anti-gay, pro-life Democratic incumbent -- who legally resides in an abandoned church -- won a narrow victory to retain her seat after a recount. The victory sets up a November faceoff against a socially liberal, pro-choice and pro-gay Republican.

After the recount, Kansas state Rep. Jan Pauls (D-Hutchinson) won the primary by eight votes, the Kansas City Star reported. Pauls had been leading her primary opponent, Erich Bishop, the openly gay son of a former Ku Klux Klan member, by seven votes following the Aug. 7 primary. Pauls will now face Republican Dakota Bass, who until recently co-chaired a progressive group with ties to the state Democratic Party.

Pauls told the Kansas City Star that she was feeling "pretty positive" about her primary victory.

Pauls, who has served in the legislature for two decades, declared an abandoned church owned by her and her husband, Ron, as her legal residence following a court drawn legislative map moved her home to a new, unfamiliar district.

The state Objections Board, consisting of three Republican statewide officials, granted Pauls' request following an objection from the Equality Coalition. The coalition is planing to continue its effort to oust Pauls.

"We still want her gone," coalition executive director Thomas Witt told The Huffington Post. Witt said that incumbents normally win contested primaries in landslides. "Erich came within eight votes as a 28-year-old political newcomer. It is pretty clear that Democratic voters are looking for a change."

Witt said the coalition has not decided whether or not to back Bass in the general election. Bass is a former board member of the Hutchison chapter of the Equality Coalition, which Witt said Bass joined to support his gay uncle.

Bass, a 20-year-old railroad conductor, told HuffPost in June that he considers himself "socially liberal" and a "fiscal conservative." He said he favors same sex marriage, abortion rights, and is opposed to Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) fiscal policies, including the tax cuts Brownback signed earlier this year. Witt said the coalition would review Bass' positions before making a final decision on an endorsement.

The district contains 70 percent of Pauls' former district and is considered by political observers to be a toss-up with a Democratic leaning. Pauls did not return a message left for comment at her home.

Pauls has established herself as Kansas' leading opponent of LGBT issues. She authored the state's ban on gay marriage and pushed for a constitutional amendment on the subject. Last year, Pauls was the leader of an effort to keep the state's sodomy ban on the books and pushed to not expand the state's civil rights laws to include sexual orientation.

"She basically single handily yanked that out of the bill," a state legislator told HuffPost on background in June about Pauls' work on the sodomy ban. "The act of being gay is against the law, though the law is unconstitutional, in the state of Kansas."

Kansas Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis told HuffPost that the party will support Pauls in November, even though she differs from the party's stance on social issues. He said this is part of the party's policy to support all Democratic nominees. He did note that the party would like Pauls to reconsider her beliefs, which he said are close to the lawmaker.

"The party and Jan Pauls have differences on these issues," Loomis said. "We would like it if Jan Pauls were to reconsider her positions on this."

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