Kline is under siege from the dueling Steves. On September 15, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske ripped Kline for refusing to disclose his tax returns and the results of an FBI background check and for letting his law license expire three times. On October 9, Steve Rose piled on in the Sun, calling Kline a wanna-be governor with "pathetic" courtroom experience.
As if that's not annoying enough, at Johnson County campaign stops Kline must look into an audience that includes his former stepfather, Charlie Spale, who has a stump speech of his own: "Phill Kline stole my house."
Spale has become his onetime son's most dogged critic. He says he's been "witnessing hard" for Kline's rival, Chris Biggs of Junction City. Everywhere he goes, Spale spews about Biggs' thirteen years of courtroom experience as Geary County prosecutor. Biggs' greatest asset, according to Spale? Biggs lives in his own house.
The 68-year-old Latvian immigrant and retired car salesman met Phill Kline's mother in the early 1970s at a "real nice singles function" at the Jewish Community Center. Among other things, their courtship involved Spale making her house payments. The two tied the knot on Christmas Eve in 1985.
When love went bad a year later, Spale got the house in the divorce. Kline's sister lived there and paid rent to Spale for a couple of years. Then came one godawful early morning when, Spale remembers, Kline called him to say, "Charlie, you don't need the house. You're going to die soon anyway."
In the court fight that followed, Kline argued that Spale's mortgage was invalid. Yes, his poor mother had given her ex the house, but Kline claimed she'd done so under duress and not very effectively. (She'd also signed it over to Kline's sister.) Spale says Kline perjured himself, but two judges ultimately agreed with Kline -- so who says he doesn't have enough courtroom experience?
Now Kline lives in the little 1950s brick ranch house in Shawnee, sharing its five rooms with his wife and daughter. Who can blame him for coveting the governor's mansion?