What's the Matter With Kansas GOP?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jan 25, 2007 10:42 AM

The Kansas GOP is in crisis-mode. In recent years, the party has experienced a bitter split between conservatives and moderates -- which became impossibe to ignore when former Kansas GOP chair, Mark Parkinson, ran on a ticket with Democrat Governor Kathleen Sebelius's lieutenant.

As the Washington Post recently reported:

“A long-standing split among Kansas Republicans has deepened in recent years. One fresh sign came from the Johnson County Sun, which said it would endorse virtually the entire Democratic ticket…after endorsing fewer than a dozen Democrats in the past half-century.”

This Saturday, the Kansas GOP will hope to change their fortunes by electing a new chairman. And many conservatives are hoping the the change-agent is Tim Huelskamp, a 38-year-old Fowler farmer who has won two landslide elections, and is chairman of the Senate Elections and Local Government Committee.

A few years ago, Hotline's "Futures Market" quoted an unnamed source as saying of Huelskamp, "Even the right thinks he's too far right." No doubt, Huelskamp is an unabashed conservative. In fact, he has received awards as Top Friend of the Taxpayer, Kansas Taxpayers Network; Daniel Award for Courageous Leadership, Kansans for Life; member of the Nehemiah Project for Senator Sam Brownback; and a nomination for the National Friend of the Taxpayer Award (from Americans for Tax Reform).

Huelskamp is also an experienced legislator who has won two landslide campaigns and has assiduously cultivated local Kansas media. He and his wife (whom he met at a Pro-Life rally), have adopted four children, two of whom are girls are from Haiti. Huelskamp argues his experience as a winning candidate, family farmer, and legislator can help him turn around the fortunes of the Kansas GOP.  He seems to believe Republicans need to become more aggressive.  According to HutchNews:

"Huelskamp was disappointed by the November election results and thinks the party could have done a better job. Republicans lost a seat in the U.S. Congress and the attorney general's post, witnessed a Democratic governor sail to a second term, and saw Democrats pick up some seats in the Kansas House, although both the Kansas Senate and House remain under Republican majorities.

In Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' commercials, Huelskamp noted, it was very difficult to tell whether she was a Democrat or Republican.

Republicans should have challenged her more aggressively on her claims of saving state dollars and avoiding a tax hike.

"She bragged about not raising taxes," Huelskamp said, but "she tried and she failed because Republicans stopped her."

Kansas Republicans have a lot at stake this Saturday -- and Huelskamp will have his hands full fending off other candidates.  Regardless of who wins, it is vital that Kansas Republicans get their house back in order, and a new chairman may help them do just that.  

For more info, read ...

Lawrence Journal World, “Heavy Hitters in 2007 Legislature”

Lawrence Journal World, “Proposal Would Require Photo ID to Vote”

Topeka Capitol Journal, “Kansas Presidential Primary Real Possibility”