The pro-life wing of the Douglas County Republican Party flexed its muscle at the party's reorganizational meeting Tuesday night and in the process upset some longtime party workers.
But Chris Miller, who was re-elected as chairman of the party's central committee, is hopeful that in the next two years the party can heal the wounds created by the abortion issue.
"Obviously, I would be lying to you and to myself if I said there is no dissension in the Republican Party," Miller said. "But at the same time there are a lot of things that hold us together, too, or these people would not have all showed up. . . . I would like to think we tolerate diversity of opinion. You saw it here tonight."
ABOUT 100 people attended the 3 -hour meeting at the Lawrence Holidome, including close to 90 precinct committeemen and committeewomen, who represent the rank and file party posts.
Despite some opposition, the pro-life wing, who appear to hold about two-thirds of the county's precinct posts, pushed through new bylaws that will expand the party's executive committee by seven members. The move allowed the pro-life precinct people elected in August to have more say in the party's day-to-day actions.
A few longtime Republicans seemed upset that the party apparatus now is controlled by the pro-life wing.
Among the more vocal was Shirley North, a precinct committeewoman for North Lawrence's 6th Ward who has been active in the party for 24 years.
North complained about tactics used against Martha Parker, who lost the GOP nomination for the Kansas House 45th District seat to Bob Skahan, a pro-life candidate. Parker, who is pro-choice, allowed her supporters to organize a write-in campaign on her behalf, which upset some party members.
SKAHAN LOST the race by about 300 votes to Democrat Forrest Swall. North said said Parker received "terrible" letters and phone calls from the party's pro-life wing.
"They did it to Martha, simply because she would not comply with what they thought. I don't think that's right," North said.
Parker told the gathering she felt she was mistreated by the pro-life faction during the primary because of her pro-choice position.
"No candidate, whether they were a Democrat, a Republican, independent or whatever, should ever have to go through the primary that I had to," Parker said. "I resent being called a non-Christian. I resent members of my committee being called every name possible. . . . You should never resort to name-calling and threatening phone calls and hate mail that I received. No one should ever go through that."
Ralph Tanner, who was defeated by Democrat Jim Chappell for the 2nd District seat on the Douglas County Commission, also called for party unity.
"I SPEAK to you as a fellow who ran afoul of the Democratic machine," Tanner said. ``. . . Let's not try by subterfuge or other devices to tear this party apart."
Despite their large numbers, the new pro-life wing of the party did not unseat the current GOP officials. Renee Karr was re-elected as vice chair and Richard Todd was re-elected treasurer. Susan Smith was elected as secretary, taking over for Grace Marion, who declined to run again for that spot.
David Miller, a former legislator from Eudora who is political action coordinator of Kansans for Life, and John Watkins, a GOP precinct committeeman and a member of Lawrence Kansans for Life, proposed bylaw changes that expanded the executive committee.
Watkins urged precinct committee people to work together and said the party was more robust when it is committed to principle.
THE PARTY'S executive committee now includes the four countywide officers and seven at-large members, who also were elected Tuesday night. They are Mark Bejot, Mary Baxter, Ron Hotz, Christopher Miller, Albert Burgstahler, Jim Lock and Betty Thoennes.
In other action, Chris Miller and Karr were elected to be delegates to the GOP's 2nd Congressional District organization. Dorothy and Ed Erazmus were tentatively elected as alternates.
Miller and Karr also were elected as delegates to the GOP 3rd Congressional District organization. Also elected were Bob Skahan, Susan Smith, John Watkins, Caroline Moriarty, David Miller, Marjorie Miller, Betty Thoeness and Terry Jacobson.
3rd District alternates are Delbert Baxter, Mary Baxter, B.J. Allen, Pat Moriarty, Mark Bejot, Mike Todd, Ron Holtz, Cindy Wampler, Bernie Norwood and Ken Martinez.
Party members also were told the local GOP has $1,914 in unpaid debts that were incurred during the election year and that the ending balance in the party's coffers as of Tuesday was $216.