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A local election watched by abortion partisans across the land

Phil Kline and Steve Howe are fighting a contentious Republican primary race over who should be the next district attorney in Johnson County, Kan., the wealthy suburb just outside Kansas City.

Kline, who holds the job now, says his experience as Kansas attorney general and his 18 months as district attorney make him the stronger leader. He says he is bringing change to the office that is long overdue, including collaborating more with federal authorities.

Howe, with 18 years of experience as a prosecutor, says Kline is devoting too much time to one issue — abortion &mdash and that he'd focus on "putting away the bad guys."

The roots of this race date to December 2006. That’s when Republican precinct leaders met to pick a replacement for Paul Morrison, who had just beaten incumbent Kline in the race for Kansas attorney general. By a 13-vote margin, the party chose Kline over Howe.

Kline had made his reputation as Kansas attorney general by pressing several nationally followed cases against abortion clinics. As Johnson County D.A., he filed criminal charges last fall against Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park, and abortion opponents across the country are backing his election campaign. They want to see him complete that prosecution.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, aid Kline "is unique among politicians in having the courage to do what he thinks is right."

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