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Kansas Sen. Holmes apologizes for his dress code guidance for women

Kansas Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, discusses a bill last sesssion at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.
Kansas Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, discusses a bill last sesssion at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. AP

Kansas Sen. Mitch Holmes, the Republican committee chairman who set off a barrage of criticism last week with his rule against low-cut blouses and mini-skirts for women, issued an apology Tuesday.

“My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable,” Holmes said in a statement.

Holmes said he apologized and meant “no offense.”

“I have decided to retract the conferee guidelines,” said Holmes, a Republican from St. John.

In his guidelines for appearances at his panel, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, Holmes had said that “low-cut necklines and miniskirts are inappropriate.”

He had issued no specific wardrobe restrictions for men, and critics called that sexist.

Reacting to the guidelines last week, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, said politicians don’t need to tell the public how to dress. Holmes should have at least kept it gender neutral, she said.

Sen. Pat Pettey, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, said the rules were sexist and unwelcoming to those who come to the Capitol for meetings and hearings.

“The big thing is we want people to feel they can be part of the process,” Pettey said. “Maybe he should keep some smocks handy.”

Edward M. Eveld: 816-234-4442, @EEveld

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