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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Fitzgerald defends comments

  • A Republican candidate for Kansas Senate is standing by statements he made last week in regard to Catholicism and the Democratic Party at a recent campaign event in Kansas City.
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  • A Republican candidate for Kansas Senate is standing by statements he made last week in regard to Catholicism and the Democratic Party at a recent campaign event in Kansas City. Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth is running against incumbent Sen. Kelly Kultala, a Democrat from Kansas City, for the 5th District state senate seat that includes most of Leavenworth County and a portion of Wyandotte County. Fitzgerald said he made the comments during a presentation to the Polish American Club at St. Joseph-St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Kansas City, Kan., during a forum for the roughly 25 members of the 87-year-old club to decide which candidate to support in the election. Reportedly, Fitzgerald called into question what he said he sees as a disconnect between Catholic doctrine and the Democratic Party platform on social issues. Having garnered national media attention in the form of an article in the Huffington Post online newspaper that has spurred regional media reports, Fitzgerald called the controversy a “tempest in a teacup,” adding that he feels people have been misinterpreting the point of what he said — that the Democratic Party platform, with its support of abortion rights and especially same-sex marriage, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine. “How can you call yourself Catholic or Christian and support the Democrat Party platform?” Fitzgerald said he asked. The message has been interpreted by some who were present, including Kultala, as implying Democrats could not count themselves as “true” Catholics or Christians. Kultala said she has been a practicing Catholic since birth and was both angered and “stunned” by Fitzgerald’s message. “I got up and said ‘wow,’” following Fitzgerald’s presentation, she said. “Then I said ‘you can’t come to our house and disrespect our beliefs,’” Kultala said, later adding, “my job is not to tell people what their moral values should be.” Fitzgerald, on the other hand, said his message was that the country deserves two strong political parties and that Democrats have a choice to make. “Fix the Democrat Party or leave it,” he said. Kultala said she thinks what Fitzgerald said was not a result of misinterpretation. “I think he’s always had these beliefs,” she said. “Never did I think it would come out in such a public way. I was stunned sitting there as he was saying these things.” Kultala is one of a number of Democrats targeted by a Republican Party leadership that is seeking to purge moderates and strengthen conservative majorities in all branches of the Kansas state government. She said she feels Fitzgerald’s comments are part and parcel with that agenda. “I think Mr. Fitzgerald falls right in line with the Brownback administration’s plan,” she said. Kultala said she also understood that Fitzgerald had made similar claims at another campaign event in Lawrence this week. Fitzgerald said he has no plans to shy away from his comments on the issues he was talking about and added he feels the furor over the comments is a diversion over what he feels is still the No. 1 issue, the economy. “We’ve got to fix other issues,” he said.

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