Lawmakers assess gains in state Legislature

Republicans in Senate must sort moderates from conservatives

? The Republican Party made gains in the Kansas Legislature, but the question was which Republican Party.

In the 40-member Senate, Republicans maintained a 30-10 advantage over Democrats.

But politicians spent Wednesday trying to determine whether so-called conservatives or moderates made up the majority of those Republicans.

The side with the most senators will be able to elect Senate leaders and control the legislative levers during the 2005 session.

With 10 new Republicans elected to the Senate, it was difficult to determine the count.

For example, some legislative handicappers had Sen.-elect Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, down as a conservative. Others had him in the moderate column.

Pine an unknown

Pine, who is replacing a conservative who decided not to seek re-election, said he was a popular guy Wednesday.

“I’ve had some calls from other senators, but no one has asked for my vote as of yet,” he said.

Pine said he hadn’t paid much attention to leadership races because he had been focused on getting elected.

“I have tried not to join one camp or the other,” he said, adding that he hoped the leadership contests could somehow repair the chasm in the Republican Party.

“I don’t think this split is good for anyone, particularly for the state of Kansas,” Pine said.

Generally, conservative Republicans have opposed tax increases for schools, supported further abortion restrictions and a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“If they’re going to label me, it’s probably on the conservative side,” Pine said. “But in terms of whether having a divided party is going to help Kansas — I don’t think that is correct.”

Difficult definitions

Sen. Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, is the moderate candidate for Senate president. Sen. Nick Jordan, R-Shawnee, is the conservative candidate.

Morris said his tally had the moderates ahead 17-13 despite the loss of Sen. Mark Buhler, a Republican from Lawrence who was defeated by Democrat Marci Francisco.

“We were certainly disappointed to lose Mark,” Morris said.

But Jordan said the count of moderates and conservatives was “a very fluid situation.”

“It’s hard to define some people,” he said. “Some of the new people are going to be conservative on some issues and moderate on others. Where they fall in the leadership race is still a question mark to me.”

Morris said the definitions of a moderate and conservative also might be in flux.

Though considered the moderate candidate, Morris said he was anti-abortion and supported a constitutional ban on gay marriage. In 2002, he supported a tax increase that he said kept schools from being harmed.

Party caucuses will be Dec. 6 to select leaders, then they will be voted on by the full House and Senate when the session starts in January.

House conservatives in charge

Meanwhile in the House, Republicans increased their command from 80-45 to 83-42 over Democrats. Leadership there already is in conservative hands and expected to stay there.

House Majority Leader Clay Aurand of Courtland said Republican gains were a rebuff to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat.

“From personal appearances to mail and recorded phone calls, Kathleen Sebelius tried to move the Legislature to the left, but was unsuccessful,” Aurand said.

Sebelius declined to respond to Aurand’s comments.

In a statement, she said her job was to work with members of both parties “to provide affordable health care to working Kansas families, strengthen Kansas schools, and create jobs to sustain our economic recovery.”