Topeka Having won the Republican gubernatorial nomination and a big victory for his fellow conservatives, State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger turned his attention Wednesday to uniting the GOP behind him.
Shallenburger attended an hourlong "unity breakfast" Wednesday in Topeka, appearing on stage with defeated rivals Wichita Mayor Bob Knight and Senate President Dave Kerr, of Hutchinson.
Both Kerr and Knight have pledged to support Shallenburger in his race against Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, the insurance commissioner.
The state GOP's breakfast was a public relations event designed to send the message that the party's conservative and moderate wings are united. About 100 party activists and candidates attended.
But the biggest names in both camps weren't there, including Gov. Bill Graves, Attorney General Carla Stovall, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, all moderates; and U.S. Sen. Brownback, a conservative.
And Republicans who attended said more work lies ahead if the party is to unite.
"Eggs and a cup of coffee is not going to be what makes the Republican Party work," said Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, a moderate.
With 98 of the state's 3,378 reporting results from Tuesday's balloting, Shallenburger had captured 42 percent of the vote, followed by Kerr with 29 percent.
Knight had 26 percent. A fourth candidate, Dan Bloom, a businessman and former Eudora school superintendent, received 3 percent even though he dropped out of the race last week and endorsed Knight.
Shallenburger attributed his victory to a large number of volunteer campaign organizations that helped him win even though both Kerr and Knight outspent him.
He also said many Republican voters agreed with him that state government has waste that can be cut and liked his promise not to raise taxes.
The state's budget problems were the biggest issue during the campaign. While Shallenburger repeatedly promised not to raise taxes, Kerr and Knight said they would protect education and essential social services.
"We had more volunteers on the ground; we had more grassroots support," Shallenburger said in an interview. "Our message was consistent."
Shallenburger's support cut across geographic regions. He won 69 counties, including Knight's home county of Sedgwick.
Kerr won 27 counties, including Johnson; Knight won only seven, none of them large enough to bring him close to Shallenburger.
"It wasn't anything tricky," Shallenburger said. "We just worked hard."
Knight later acknowledged being "whooped real good."
"He worked hard," Knight said of Shallenburger. "He had his message. He hung in there. It resonated with the voters."
Sebelius was the only Democrat running. Also on the Nov. 5 ballot are Libertarian Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie attorney, and Reform Party nominee Ted Pettibone, a St. Marys businessman. Incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Graves is term-limited.
Free to raise money and keep her campaign relatively low-key during the primary season, Sebelius looked formidable.
As of late July, she'd already raised $1.8 million in a state where the record is $2.61 million, what Graves spent on his re-election in 1998.
One pre-election poll, sponsored by seven media organizations, suggested Sebelius led in matchups with Kerr, Knight and Shallenburger. The survey of 731 likely voters was organized by the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas and had a margin of error of 3.6 percent.
In a Sebelius-Shallenburger match, it showed Sebelius the choice of 45.6 percent of the respondents and Shallenburger, of only 24.1 percent. Another 30.4 percent were undecided.
But Shallenburger dismissed the numbers as irrelevant.
"That campaign hasn't started yet," he said.
Shallenburger, 48, spent 12 years in the Kansas House, the last four as speaker, before being elected treasurer in 1998.
Kerr, 57, has served in the Senate for 18 years, including five as its Ways and Means Committee chairman and the last 18 months as president.
Knight, 60, was in his seventh term as mayor of the state's largest city.
In the general election, history and voter registration remained on Republicans' side.
More than 710,000 Kansas voters were affiliated with the Republican Party about 272,000 more than those identifying themselves as Democrats. And no Democrat has won an open governor's race since 1936.