Kline should leave DA’s office much as he finds it
Phill Kline has been loaned the keys to the Johnson County District Attorney's Office for two years. That is the only way to realistically evaluate Kline's selection last week by a caucus of county Republican precinct leaders to succeed the man who five weeks earlier easily ended his bid to be re-elected Kansas attorney general.
One doesn't have to be an expert political handicapper to predict the next elected district attorney will be either Rick Guinn or Steve Howe, the two lieutenants of Paul Morrison that were also nominated for the position.
Although Kline has been unusually reticent to talk to the press, it appears he understands this. It has been said he doesn't plan to run for the office in two years. That could be a simple concession of his unpopularity in Johnson County, where he lost to Morrison by more than 53,000 votes in November with only 35 percent of the vote.
It has also been hinted that Kline wants to continue investigations he started as attorney general into the state's abortion clinics, including one in Overland Park. We hope so, because no matter what one feels about that investigation, it is a better motivation for seeking the district attorney's office than hubris, revenge against those who helped defeat him on the state level or a desire to collect a paycheck.
The position does give Kline an opportunity to resurrect his political career. He is beholden only to the conservatives who selected him and has a free hand to make the changes he pleases. But letting Kline be Kline hasn't served him well. Six years ago, Kline carried Johnson County in his unsuccessful bid to unseat 3rd District U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore. Four years ago, he edged out a political unknown to become the state's attorney general. This year, Moore's successor in the county district attorney's office swamped Kline in his re-election bid.
We would suggest Kline can best serve Johnson County and promote his political career by leaving things in the district attorney's office pretty much as he found them. We encourage him to do everything possible to keep its staff and organization in place for Guinn or Howe. Should he do so, he would earn more respect from the county voters who voted against him six weeks ago than two years of political grandstanding and playing to his base.