Though observers had thought Kansas AG Paul Morrison was digging in to fight for his reputation, he announced his resignation today, effective January 31. Kathleen Sebelius will name his successor.
Chris Biggs, who lost to Phill Kline in 2002, is among those mentioned as being on the short list of candidates to replace Morrison.
The resignation is not altogether surprising, but it is disappointing. As Diane observes, this is the right thing to do for Kansas, and it’s the right thing to have done for the good of the Democratic party. Furthermore, there’s no doubt that Morrison deserved some sort of punishment for carrying on an affair with an employee. He’s accused of some much more serious things, and it would surely have been a distraction for him to be fighting those charges while trying to run his office. That’s why this is, ceteris paribus, good for Kansas. If he did what he’s accused of, he would have been out of office for certain, and rightly so. If so, it’s better that he’s out of office sooner than later. But I’m not incline to think he did all that he’s been accused of. Phill Kline’s filthy fingerprints are all over the story, and I wouldn’t trust him to tell me the time of day.
And that’s where I find this problematic. Resigning now, before laying down a clear marker about who is calling the shots, makes Kline seem like he won some sort of victory. I don’t think he did. I think Governor Sebelius has her eyes on higher office, and doesn’t want to spoil the reputation she’s built up on a long fight over Paul Morrison’s conduct as a (Republican) county DA. I think Morrison hadn’t yet built up political support among Democrats, and lost whatever he once had among Republicans when he switched parties. Kline saw the opportunity and he struck. It was inelegant, but it worked.
Paul Morrison was a good county DA and an effective state AG. I’m inclined to think he is a good man, but the jury is, alas, still out on that count. Whoever replaces him will have big shoes to fill. Because Morrison acted fast, at least his successor won’t have to rebuild the reputation of the AG’s office. Morrison did a lot to restore the public’s faith in the state attorney general, and I think he leaves office with that accomplishment untarnished.
By the way, in covering this story, I’ve made a point of linking to Diane Silver’s blog and Blue Tide Rising. Those two are great resources, and those of you who read TfK for the Kansas politics should be reading them as well. When I started blogging, the progressive blogosphere in Kansas was nowhere near as vibrant as it is now, and I’m proud of them and the other progressive Kansas bloggers for the community they’ve created and maintained.