Paul Davis campaign to hold event in Kansas Supreme Court justice’s yard tonight

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Carol Beier is a Kansas Supreme Court justice often accused by the state’s Republican activists of advancing stridently liberal ideology on the state’s highest court.

Often, those accusations ring hollow, sounding like sour grapes from partisans who complain about rulings from the judicial branch only when they don’t match their own political views.

A Tuesday-evening backyard barbecue at Beier’s house thrown in support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis, however, seems tailor-made to amplify such claims while calling into question the judge’s integrity.

The Kansas Republican Party is circulating an invitation it found, advertising a cookout in the backyard of Richard Green’s house. Green, a schoolteacher in Topeka, is Beier’s husband. A disclaimer at the bottom says the invitation was paid for by Davis’ campaign. The event, which will serve pulled-pork sandwiches, sides, beer, wine and lemonade, solicits suggested $20 donations.

The Davis campaign says the cookout is much ado about nothing, the latest in a series of what it calls “manufactured outrage” turned up by Kansas Republicans to direct attention away from Gov. Sam Brownback’s first-term troubles.

Kansas Republicans have indeed been loud lately, calling out Davis’ journey, as a 20-something, to a strip club on the same day the FBI raided the establishment. His political opponents have cast that anecdote as a sign of the candidate’s poor judgment (though Davis had nothing to do with why the feds showed up). 

But it’s hard to see the upside to holding a campaign event at the home of a top judicial official, someone who could have a say on the legal muster of legislation that Davis might sign as a future governor. At best, it’s reckless.

Both Beier and Davis are lawyers who should understand that even the appearance of a conflict of interest is a troublesome prospect. But neither seems bothered by the question today.

Beier confirms that the cookout is happening at her house, but says it was her husband’s event and that she had no role in planning for it.

“It’s my husband’s event,” Beier tells The Pitch. “I’ve taken pains not to be involved in it.”

But it’s still a campaign event for a Democrat aspiring for the governor’s office happening at her home.

“It’s the home we share,” Beier says, drawing a thin distinction. “I’m not going to comment any further,” Beier adds. “It’s not my event.”

Davis’ campaign, meanwhile, has issued a statement saying that neither Davis nor running mate Jill Docking will appear at Beier’s house Tuesday.

The following is from Davis press secretary Chris Pumpelly:

Before the Kansas Republican Party gets too carried away with its manufactured outrage, let’s clarify a few points: Justice Beier won’t be there, she had nothing to do with the planning and is in absolutely no way participating with this event. Period. Further, Paul and Jill themselves won’t be there, and were never scheduled to be there. There is no donation required to attend, as this an informational meeting hosted by teachers, for teachers, out of concern for the future of Kansas schools after four years of cuts and neglect from Governor Sam Brownback.

Davis last year made pointed comments about Brownback nominating his administration’s top attorney in Caleb Stegall for a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court.

“The Kansas judiciary should be a pillar of independence and transparency,” Davis said, according to an article in the Topeka Capital-Journal, “not a parking lot for Gov. Brownback’s well-connected, partisan pals.”

Tuesday’s event could erode the public’s perception of Beier’s independence from Davis.

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