The KC Strip is the sirloin of Kansas City media, a critical cut of surmisin' steak that each week weighs in on the issues of the day, dictating its column to Pitch writers.

He's Hot 

Don't worry about Eric Carter's facts — just look at his face.

The Strip doesn't know whether it's male or female, but because it's a big red hunk of bone-in meat, it feels pretty macho. And its latest man crush is on Kansas Rep. Eric Carter, who's running for state insurance commissioner.

Don't try to tell the Strip that's not a sexy job. The official mission of the Kansas Department of Insurance may be a yawner (it's "to regulate and review companies, educate consumers, assist consumers, and license agents selling insurance products in the state"), but your beefy narrator knows that Carter's heroic quest for the job is really just another battle between conservative and moderate Kansas Republicans, who are fighting like Shiites and Sunnis for control of their state.

Carter has represented Overland Park in the Kansas House since just 2003, but he apparently can't wait to be insurance commissioner. The Strip may be more tongue than brain, but it didn't fall off the cattle truck yesterday. It figures that Carter sees the job as a stepping stone to the governor's mansion.

And Carter makes a bee-yoo-ti-ful politician. There's the bachelor's degree from Harvard (in, his bio says, "science," so he can take on uppity evolutionists), the master's from Cambridge (in economics, so he can argue for tax cuts), and the law degree from UMKC (where the dreamy Kris Kobach teaches). Sure, the Strip considers intelligence a turn-on, but this horny hamburger really drools over Carter's Colgate smile, his wheaty tan, his broad chest and his high-and-tight rump.

While stalking Carter on his Web site, the Strip discovered that "Eric is an Ironman triathlete and five-time marathon runner (including the grueling Pike's Peak Marathon twice), he trains and competes in judo (gold medalist, 1999 Sunflower Games, heavy-weight black-belt division) and various other martial arts, and he is a certified open water SCUBA diver."

Ahem.

The Strip wanted to catch a little in-person action with the candidate, so last week it went to a forum at the Johnson County Central Library. Carter was supposed to appear with the incumbent insurance commissioner, Sandy Praeger, who isn't Republican enough, which is why Carter's challenging her in the August primary. Praeger didn't show and instead sent a stand-in, Assistant Commissioner Bob Tomlinson, who spoke on her behalf.

"You know, I am the insurance commissioner, and it is a full-time job," Praeger said later, when the Strip asked why she hadn't been there. The day of the forum, she said, "I was on a conference in the department with one of our major domestic insurance companies that was just announcing a merger with a large international insurance company."

Whatever. Her absence just left more time for Carter's seductive speeches, delivered in a voice like sturdy honey.

Because the forum was sponsored by several groups of old-timers, the room was filled with gray hairs and the talk centered on the kind of health insurance that pays for AARP-age illnesses and nursing-home stays. And like all big, strong conservatives, Carter argued that most of the out-of-control costs in the health insurance industry were caused by malpractice suits and could be solved by tort reform.

That and fixing what he called "illegal health care."

His wife's cousin, Carter said, just completed an anesthesia program at the University of Kansas and had told him about "the longest surgery ever at KU."

The disgusting-sounding procedure involved opening the top of a guy's head and operating on his brain. "It was a 60-hour surgery," Carter said with thrilling, authoritative intensity. "The neurosurgeon was in there for 36 hours straight.... Afterwards, the individual was in the intensive care unit for a month and a half." The Strip could feel minds boggling as folks tried to fathom a surgeon working for 36 straight hours and the astronomical cost, which Carter estimated at $600,000 to three-quarters of a million. The kicker: "At the end, they put him on a plane and flew him back to Mexico."

People gasped.

Later that day, the Strip called the media folks at KU Med Center to get more details on Carter's incredible story.

"It is not unusual for a neurosurgery to last over a day," said Dennis McCulloch, the hospital's director of public relations, "but we can't identify a case where any surgery has gone much over 30 hours."

What? Not 60 hours? "We can't find a record or anyone who recalls a surgery that even approached that," he said.

What about the dollar amounts Carter cited? "That type of surgery probably could run into several hundred thousand dollars, depending on the complexity," McCulloch agreed.

And what about shipping the uninsured Mexican back home after his month and a half in the ICU?

McCulloch said he couldn't comment on specific cases due to privacy laws (which the Strip is certain shouldn't apply to illegals sucking up U.S. taxpayer dollars for their cranio-whatever operations).

"Certainly we are committed to doing whatever is necessary to save the life of whatever patient comes into our care," McCulloch said. "We don't look for an insurance card to determine if they live or die." He went on to say something about how the hospital has a charity policy based on the federal poverty level, but by then, this smitten steak had heard enough.

There must be a good explanation for why he couldn't confirm the story about "the longest surgery ever at KU" — maybe McCulloch just didn't talk to Carter's wife's cousin. Carter could undoubtedly clear this up, but he hasn't returned the Strip's call (sniff, sniff).

But even if there isn't an explanation, this stood-up sirloin is only half-heartbroken. After all, the Strip can't help admiring a guy who has mastered the virile art of the well-told tall tale. Not everyone has such brazen talent, so for now, the Strip's man love for Eric Carter remains true.

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