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GOP picks ex-mayor to represent 67th District

By Bill Felber

Pledging to win November’s general election, former Manhattan Mayor Tom Phillips was chosen Monday to represent the 67th District in the Kansas Legislature, a term that may begin as early as Wednesday.

Phillips emerged from among three declared candidates as the pick of 39 Republican precinct committee persons to succeed Susan Mosier. In the middle of a term she won in 2010, Mosier resigned effective Wednesday to accept a job with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Phillips led the first round of balloting with 18 votes, two short of the absolute majority needed for election. Businessman Frank Beer had 14 votes, while Bob Boyd had seven.

With Boyd eliminated from consideration, Phillips apparently picked up three of his votes to emerge with a 21-18 victory over Beer on the second ballot.

In remarks prior to the voting, Phillips described himself as “a free market guy” with positions generally viewed as aligned to the Republican mainstream. “I believe in market competition,” he said. “I believe in limited government. I believe the individual needs to be responsible for their actions to their family and their community. I believe in low taxes. I believe there has to be a safety net. I’m pro life, I believe in capital punishment. I believe people should know right from wrong”

Asked whether he would commit to supporting Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to gradually eliminate the state income tax, Phillips did not commit. “I am concerned about a significant shift (from income taxes to property taxes),” he said. “I can’t have a knee-jerk reaction. He said he did understand the “thought process” behind the governor’s proposal. Both of his opponents voiced support for the idea of eliminating the state income tax.

He was similarly uncommitted regarding Brownback’s plan for reform of K-12 education funding. “I don’t know all the details,” he said. “My job will be to learn as quickly as I can.”

“I knew it was going to be close,” Phillips said following the vote.

Neither of the two losing candidates indicated following the vote that they would pursue an August primary effort to wrest the nomination for the full term from Phillips, although both vowed to, in Beer’s terms, “stay engaged.” One wild card Monday night was the shape of the revamped district, with a proposed new House map surfacing.

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