Building a statewide Republican Party platform could split members on social and cultural issues, say some local GOP legislators.
Starting next month, Republicans across Kansas will begin the process of hammering a statewide platform.
GOP leaders say it's a grass-roots approach designed to give every Republican a chance to have a voice about what it means to be a Republican.
However, several area GOP legislators say they're afraid that the act of putting together a platform will cause unnecessary strife in the party -- and cause splits before the 1996 elections on social and cultural issues, including abortion, public support for the arts and prayer in school.
"We need to try hard not to shoot ourselves in the foot, which we could easily do," said state Rep. Ralph Tanner, R-Baldwin.
"If we fracture the party, it might just come about as we work on a platform," Tanner said. "We're going to cut pretty close to the quick when we start looking at various planks in the platform."
Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, is a pro-choice Republican and is worried about how Republicans who oppose abortion would plan to use a state platform that includes a pro-life plank.
"If there's a requirement that candidates adhere to every plank in the platform, I think it will present problems for some folks, particularly depending on what is adopted," Praeger said.
She said she wondered if the party would expect candidates to sign a pledge of support for the party's platform.
"I think it's real hard to expect that kind of uniformity. And I don't know what will be finally adopted. But I don't always agree with every position in the platform," Praeger said.
Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said a state party platform isn't needed.
"I believe that every candidate goes to the people with who he or she is, what their message is, and it's for the voters to decide," Sloan said. "The party platform is artificially created. "
Chris Miller, a former Douglas County Republican Chairman, said he has his doubts about building the platform.
"I think it will just bring attention to what cannot be resolved and it will further fracture the party structure," he said.
Nevertheless, the state's new GOP leadership, whose members include many social conservatives, are moving forward on the creation of a statewide platform.
Susan Smith, who chairs the Douglas County Central Republican Committee, said she and other GOP county chairmen from across the state plan to attend a workshop next Saturday in Topeka that will explain the platform creation process.
State GOP Chairman David Miller, of Eudora, is holding the workshops for county GOP leaders to clear up the details in the way the platform will be put together.
The plan calls for holding an open meeting to gather public input, then holding county precinct committee meetings to begin drafting the platform. Congressional district meetings would further refine the platform. And a draft copy of the platform would be ready for the state GOP committee when it meets during Kansas Day festivities in January.
Smith, who plans to begin scheduling meetings for the platform creation in October, thinks a platform will strengthen rather than split the party.
"The people I hear most bandying that about are the media and the Democrats. I think the Republican party is safe. I don't see a split, and I don't foresee a split, and I don't want a split," Smith said.
She predicted the state platform will probably mirror the national GOP platform on the abortion issue.
"We have a pro-life stance on the national platform, so what's the big question?" she said. "I'm getting tired of people using one issue and calling it the dividing or the deciding factor ...We have people who are choosing to use the issue of abortion in a very divisive way."
The ultimate goal to to develop a common ground, she said.
"We have an awful lot in common and have a rich heritage. I would like to see us capitalize on that," she said. "We need to come to a consensus, not necessarily an absolute agreement."
Republicans who don't agree with everything in the platform will still get campaign money from the party -- if they win the GOP primary nomination, she said.
"My goal is to see more `R's' than `D's' in Douglas County. And we are making progress toward that end," she said.