Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly won endorsement Thursday of a four-state Planned Parenthood organization in the wake of an increasingly bitter attack from a Democratic rival regarding dedication to preserving legal abortion.

Kelly, a state senator from Topeka and the only woman campaigning for governor, received the blessing of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, a nonprofit advocacy organization serving Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The disclosure followed a Wichita debate in which Jack Bergeson, a pro-choice Democratic candidate for governor, said Kelly’s running mate, Sen. Lynn Rogers, was endorsed by Kansans for Life in 2013.

“We must take that into consideration, and who she’s willing to associate with,” said Bergeson, one of three high school students on the Aug. 7 ballot in Kansas. “I am a staunch supporter of women’s rights.”

Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, pointed to Kelly’s “proven track record supporting reproductive rights” and Rogers’ “100 percent voting record on sexual and reproductive health” since joining the Senate in 2017. Hill condemned the record on abortion rights of Gov. Jeff Colyer and former Gov. Sam Brownback.

“After eight long years with Brownback and Colyer attacking women’s rights, Kansas is ready for a governor who will fight against anti-choice extremists,” Hill said. “With access to safe, legal abortion on the line at the national level, the significance of this election can’t be overstated.”

Kelly made abortion a campaign issue by repeatedly blasting Democratic candidate Josh Svaty for voting 11 times in support of anti-abortion legislation while a member of the Kansas House.

On Thursday, former Kansas Democratic Party chairman Lee Kinch, who led the party’s organization in Sedgwick County for 12 years, endorsed Svaty for governor.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach, competing against Colyer for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, said the cost of the state’s Medicaid program, which serves 400,000 people for $3.2 billion annually, could be significantly reduced by reforming the KanCare system to allow participants to receive unlimited primary care visits from doctors for $50 per month.

Kobach, as well as Colyer, also rejected a decision Wednesday by the University of Kansas to move from a flagpole to the Spencer Art Museum a U.S. flag decorated by an artist to depict divisive conditions in the country.

“It is ridiculous to call that a solution,” Kobach said. “This display must be taken down entirely.”

Colyer said he was scheduled to receive a “major endorsement” during a Friday news conference at Topeka offices of the Kansas Livestock Association. The governor already has been endorsed by Kansas Farm Bureau.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Republican from Hiawatha seeking the 2nd District’s GOP congressional nomination, signed a pledge with Americans for Tax Reform to oppose higher income taxes. The district includes Topeka and stretches from Nebraska to Oklahoma.

“I promise the hard-working taxpayers of the 2nd District that I’m not going to Washington to increase your taxes,” Pyle said.

Another 2nd District GOP candidate, Steve Watkins, of Topeka, said he signed a pledge to advocate for term limits at the state and federal levels.