Moderate Republicans were licking their wounds Wednesday after Tuesday's conservative victories in Kansas congressional primaries.
Stay with the party or cross over and vote for Democrats in the fall?
That's the question some moderate Republicans were asking themselves in the wake of a string of conservative victories Tuesday in GOP congressional primary races.
"I think moderates are feeling a little sense of confusion today of exactly what the future for them is," said state Sen. Sandy Praeger, a Lawrence Republican.
Praeger, a pro-choice Republican, backed fellow moderate Sheila Frahm, who lost Tuesday's primary battle for Bob Dole's former U.S. Senate seat to U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback, a conservative pro-life Republican.
The defeat was especially divisive because Frahm, the former lieutenant governor, had been appointed by Gov. Bill Graves in June to fill out Dole's term. She will do so until January.
Praeger said although Frahm has pledged to support Brownback in the fall campaign against Democrat Jill Docking, rank-and-file moderate Republicans might defect and vote for Docking.
"It will really depend on how the candidates for the Republican Party handle themselves," Praeger said. "Sam Brownback has said the Republican Party is a big tent. There are a lot of Republican moderates who felt like they've been left out of the loop."
One of those is Wint Winter Jr., a Lawrence attorney and former state senator.
Winter chaired the Douglas County campaign for Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert, a moderate who lost Tuesday's six-way GOP primary for the 3rd Congressional District seat. State House Majority Leader Vince Snowbarger, a conservative, won the nomination.
Moderates, Winter said, are having a hard time getting like-minded Republicans out to the polls.
"I'm not satisfied with the outcome of the election," Winter said. "It doesn't mean those candidates who won can't be persuaded to moderate their views on social issues."
Like Praeger, Winter also predicted moderate Republicans will vote a mixed ticket.
"I think people like me, who have been predominantly Republican, but have never been highly Republican, are willing to vote for a moderate, free-thinking Democrat," Winter said.
"I'm not closing my mind to a Vince Snowbarger or a Sam Brownback, but I sure want to know more," Winter said. "If some of the questions that I have are not answered, it leaves people like me not voting or voting for qualified Democrats."
Forrest Swall, Douglas County Democratic Party chairman, and other observers predicted that Democrats will be helped by the GOP divisiveness.
However, John Watkins, 3rd Congressional District Republican chairman, said the party will stay together.
"We have a winning recipe," Watkins said. "We've had it since '80 with Reagan: Smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, stronger family values. This is a winning recipe. There's only a few people who haven't learned it."