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SPOTLIGHT
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Conservative here and there won't do

Published on -12/4/2012, 10:04 AM

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Ever wonder whether you -- or at least one of you -- would have had a better time on that first date if you had gone to a restaurant where salt came in shakers instead of those little paper packets that you have to tear one end off to sprinkle?

Or whether you ordered chicken instead of steak because you weren't sure just how much you wanted to spend?

Well, fanciful analogies aside, the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission is apparently trying to find out whether Gov. Sam Brownback is a cheap date.

Remember just three weeks ago the commission, which Brownback doesn't much care for, pointedly sent to him a list of three Kansas Court of Appeals nominees that didn't include the names of two conservatives who, we have to believe, Brownback would have enjoyed sending either one to the state's second-highest court.

The thought then: Brownback is going to do away with the nominating commission, made up of nine members -- five lawyers elected by the Kansas Bar Association and four non-lawyers appointed by the governor -- anyway, so it might as well try to load up the Appeals Court with lawyer-chosen judges before Brownback can have the system changed.

And then came Friday (before Brownback has even made his selection from the earlier trio), when the nominating commission offered to the governor the three-nominee basket which this time includes five-term former State Rep. and eight-year Sedgwick County District Court Judge Anthony Powell, who used to be R-Wichita, but who is now generally referred to as "your honor."

Time for a digression: At this point, it really doesn't matter whether Powell is a strict "conservative" judge, reading just the law and not the circumstances which brought him cases, or a "moderate" who looks to the law for principles and applies them to the world we live in. At this point Powell, for most Kansans, becomes just a well-known Republican who has stood for election and won --that's how they do it in Sedgwick County -- in one of the state's most conservative counties. (Digression ends.)

So does sending Brownback a nominee popularly -- at least by court-watchers -- labeled "conservative" mean that the lawyer-heavy selection system works? Or does it mean, for Brownback's purposes, it works half the time?

Oh, and don't even get into the situation where Brownback refuses to make a selection and Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss (an appointee of moderate Republican former Gov. Bill Graves) has to make the choice.

That puts the Supreme Court (nominees selected by the same commission) on the block, doesn't it?

Where does this all go? It seems that the nominating commission is trying to determine whether Brownback, born in the low-frills farming community of Parker, is a cheap date.

We ought to know in a couple weeks, but we're betting that courting Brownback with the occasional conservative isn't going to work. He's just not a cheap date.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.

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