Topeka Hundreds of Republicans gathered from across Kansas to celebrate their party Saturday, but they also tended to the sting from the state GOP's only two high-profile election losses.
Unity was the theme in speech after speech from party leaders, and the state GOP's newly elected chairman preached solidarity. Speakers included North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole and her husband, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole.
Republicans won four statewide races and three U.S. House contests last year. But Democrat Kathleen Sebelius won the governor's race, and Rep. Dennis Moore won narrow re-election in the 3rd Congressional District -- both with support from GOP moderates.
GOP leaders said they want the infighting between conservatives and moderates to stop after the primary in 2004, so that Republicans, who outnumber Democrats by more than 301,000 among registered voters, don't have any high-profile losses.
"Maybe in 2004, we can figure out how our troops can avoid forming our firing squads into circles," said U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.
And U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback said: "I think everyone is saying, 'The war's over.'"
About 750 Republicans attended a Saturday night banquet, the annual highlight of the state GOP's Kansas Day festivities. The gathering occurs on the Friday night and Saturday closest to the Jan. 29 anniversary of the state's admission the Union in 1861.
One promised show of GOP unity didn't materialize -- a public pledge by Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh and State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins to avoid endorsing candidates in contested GOP primaries in 2004.
Thornburgh attributed the absence of a public declaration to a lack of available time in Saturday night's program. He said a news conference is likely soon.
"Whenever we can get everyone together, we'll join hands and sing 'Kumbaya,'" he said.
Even without the four officials' public demonstration, Republicans still heard plenty about togetherness.
The GOP State Committee unanimously elected Kearny County Attorney Dennis Jones, of Lakin, as state chairman. He succeeds former state Sen. Mark Parkinson, of Olathe, who stepped down after six years.