Kansas Republicans call for party reform, organization

Robert Burkett

The present collided with the future of conservative politics on Washburn’s campus April 18.

The Kansas Federation of College Republicans held their spring 2009 convention in the Kansas room of the Memorial Union to work out plans for the following academic year and to hear from some prominent names in Kansas conservative politics. Most of the speakers came to campaign for votes in the upcoming 2010 elections in various state-level races.

“Campaigning starts earlier and earlier it seems like anymore,” said Caleb Reid, student and member of the Washburn chapter of College Republicans.

The candidates included many relatively new names, but most came to listen to what some more familiar faces like Ron Thornburgh, Sam Brownback and Todd Tiahrt had to say. Each is currently starting down the long campaign trail toward new positions in state and federal government.

Thornburgh was the first to arrive at the convention as a late addition to the lineup of expected speakers. Speaking at his alma mater, Thornburgh took the opportunity to highlight the reasons he is seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas in 2010 by explaining what he wanted from younger Republicans.

“We need your ideas and energy to help guide the party,” said Thornburgh. “Leadership is earned and created not just given away.”

The main issues that Thornburgh spoke about where the economy and fixing the state’s budget crisis.

In contrast, while most speakers at the event kept themselves confined to state politics and issues, Tiahrt spoke about issues of concern at a federal level. Tiahrt is seeking the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by current Sen. Brownback at the end of his current term in 2010.

“We need to say no to more stimulus bills now before our children and their childrens’ futures are completely spent away,” said Tiahrt.

Tiahrt spoke at great length, outlining his plans for the future economic course of the state and country. Mainly he outlined his support for a “fair tax,” otherwise known as a national sales tax, that would dramatically scale down the size and complexity of federal government in terms of financial oversight, including organizations like the Internal Revenue Service. Tiahrt also contrasted what he termed as “his steadfast service and consistent record” with other members of Congress, including Democrat and member of the U.S. House of Representatives Charlie Rangel.

“There are so many loopholes in the current tax code that people like Rep. Rangel hadn’t paid taxes in 12 years,” said Tiahrt.

Tiahrt closed his time with a call to the new generation of Republicans.

“Renew the dream of conservative politics with a new group of ideas that will carry the party into the future,” he said.

The last speaker of the evening was Brownback, who is currently in the preliminary stages of his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas. Brownback painted himself as a, “simple son of farmers from out near Parker, Kan.” Brownback also signaled his approach to what he termed, “the party being in the wilderness,” and his strategy for bringing the party back.

“You know it’s easier to get that guy who’s on the [liberal side of politics] to see things my way if I’m pro-life all the way,” said Brownback.

Brownback elaborated on his stance that all life is sacred and how the Republican party needs to move toward being pro-human rights on all issues. He also spoke about the need for the party to take a fundamental view of “what is being American” and used those thoughts to transition into his stance on the hot button issue of immigration.

“We as a nation need to look at the full range of tools at our disposal, not just tightening drivers license and school reform laws,” said Brownback.

He finished the evening speeches by telling the up-and-coming Republican audience to “get better not bitter” and to help diversify the party by helping to recruit “people of color” as well.

The evening’s events ended with more business of the KSFCR and closing remarks by the president of the organization.