Sidney Thomas said he knew someone had hired a private investigator to look into his opponent's past but opposed the effort and expenditure made by the unknown patron.
District judge candidate Sidney Thomas said he had no involvement in the broad, anonymous release of information regarding misdemeanor charges naming his opponent, Michael J. Giardine, in Michigan in 2005.
The race to replace Judge Daniel Love for the 16th Judicial District seat will be all but official after the Republican primary election on August 5. No Democrat has filed to run in the November general election for the position. Advance voting began last week.
Thomas said he first learned of the information when contacted by a reporter from the Topeka Capital-Journal and offered no comment at the time as he could not determine the veracity of the documents.
Thomas said he wasn't sure it was true until seeing articles published in the Capital-Journal and the Hutchinson News, Monday. "I'm sorry to hear about this," he said, and said he had no role in the release.
"If you look at my character, and what I have been about this whole campaign, it would be inconsistent with everything I am about. I value above everything being forthright and honest," Thomas said.
"I've been praying for Mike. I can't imagine all that he went through. We're not buddies, but I count him as a colleague and a friend," he said.
Giardine traveled to Michigan where the misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge was dismissed, Monday. Instead, Giardine pled guilty to a charge of "disorderly person, jostling" and paid a $300 fine, a tactical decision to take some charge rather than risk a lengthy out-of-state drug possession trial.
Giardine credits the discovery of the information, which he says he did not know about until contacted by a Globe reporter on July 14, to a private investigator hired by Thomas or an ally.
Earlier in the campaign, when Giardine confirmed a private investigator had been hired, he contacted Thomas, both men confirmed. Thomas then, as now, said neither he nor his campaign had hired the investigator.
After investigating the investigator and discovering a name, Thomas contacted him and was told that the identity of the client was privileged information.
"At that time I talked to my people and I said I didn't want any part of that," Thomas said.
"I thought I knew the people helping me pretty well," he added.
He said he doesn't know who would go against his wishes on his behalf. "I have to assume good motives with those whom I know to have good character. All I can say is my life has been characterized by being open and honest."
Still, Thomas said, before the election he was given advice by a local legislator to expect a detailed background check by opponents and their allies.
"I just wish I could distance myself and I only have suspicions," Thomas said.
When asked how he would have approached the situation had he known of the charge or warrant against Giardine, Thomas said he would have contacted Giardine directly rather than orchestrate the release.
"I thought I knew the people helping me pretty well," Thomas added.
Up to this point, the campaign had been a relatively tame, shoe-leather affair as each has knocked at the others' definition of relevant experience.
Giardine was accepted to the Kansas Bar Association in 2006, giving him fewer years practicing than Thomas, who was accepted in 1989. Thomas lives in Garden City, outside the 16th Judicial District — a fact that does not disqualify him from the position — and has relatively few years in his career as a trial attorney compared to Giardine, whose entire career has been trial law.
So far, most of the work has been done at the grass roots level, vote for vote, and in front of small civic groups.
Giardine had a goal of knocking the door of every Republican voter in the district and day after day could be seen going door-to-door. "I've gone through three pairs of shoes since I started," he said roughly a month ago when seen walking to a house on 13th Avenue.
Thomas, too, has been a near-permanent fixture at civic events including the 3i Show and the Ford County Fair making a case for votes.