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Abortion a Major Issue in Unpopular Race

October 31, 1990

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Voters don’t seem to like either Kansas gubernatorial candidate very much, and their respective stands on abortion don’t appear to be enticing constituents.

Republican Gov. Mike Hayden and Democrat Joan Finney have negative overall ratings so large that political consultants say neither would stand a chance of election against an opponent that voters felt good about.

Hayden’s unfavorable rating consistently has exceeded 40 percent; Mrs. Finney’s has climbed past 30 percent during the campaign.

Mrs. Finney, the state treasurer, had an 18-point lead early in the campaign, but political observers think the neck-and-neck contest may be headed for the closest finish ever in a Kansas governor’s race.

In a state that has one of the nation’s most liberal abortion laws, Hayden is the clear pick of pro-choice groups.

In a political reversal, Hayden has declared himself pro-choice. Mrs. Finney is staunchly anti-abortion.

It is Hayden who has captured the endorsement of Molly Yard of the National Organization for Women. That’s a rarity for a Republican, especially one who was endorsed by right to life groups in 1986.

Mrs. Finney, a Roman Catholic, wants the issue to go away. Women Democratic legislators have said publicly they’re having a hard time supporting Mrs. Finney because of her anti-abortion stand.

In cases of rape and incest, ″we have to look far deeper than a reactionary act like abortion,″ she said in September, touching off a furor.

That widely publicized statement was offensive to large numbers of women and turned a lot of voters to Hayden, says Frank Ybarra, the governor’s campaign press secretary.

Mrs. Finney, meanwhile, is waging a damage control effort.

She’s said she won’t propose legislation restricting abortions, although she says she would sign restrictions into law if they came to her as governor.

And she’s stopped talking about abortion as the campaign nears its conclusion, while aides try to downplay her earlier comments.

″I don’t know how significant an issue it will be,″ said Finney spokesman Mark Schmeller. ″Polls show it’s a major concern for only 10 percent or so of the voters. I think it’ll probably be a wash.″

There are other issues in the campaign. One is the state sales tax.

Hayden proposes raising that tax a penny, to 5.25 percent, and using the estimated $215 million in new revenue to reduce school property taxes.

Mrs. Finney has proposed putting a 1 percent sales tax on goods and services now exempt, raising $460 million to lower school and local government property taxes.

Mrs. Finney says Hayden’s plan is inadequate; he says her plan would devastate Kansas business and agriculture by adding to the cost of state products sold elsewhere.

It has been a negative campaign, by Kansas standards.

Hayden has questioned Mrs. Finney’s competence, saying she’s unable to manage the treasurer’s office, much less the entire state government.

Mrs. Finney has accused Hayden of twisting her positions to make her look bad, and of airing ″mudslinging″ advertising.

The latest figures show Hayden outspending Mrs. Finney $1.3 million to $274,000 during the fall campaign. Much of his money has gone for television commercials.

In one, Kansas first lady Patti Hayden asks voters if they know which candidate for governor opposes capital punishment, ″even for people who murder children.″

A Finney TV commercial shows blobs of mud being slapped on a picture of Mrs. Finney’s face, with the announcer explaining which charge by Hayden each spat represents.

At the conclusion, the announcer says: ″All of this makes Joan Finney look pretty good. And the governor? Just another mudslinging politician.″

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