Anti-abortion leader berates Shallenburger’s inclusiveness

The Kansas Republican Party, long divided between conservative and moderate camps, is showing signs of fresh fracture – this time among conservatives.

“Our enemies are no longer the Democrats, they are the RINOs – Republicans In Name Only – who side with the Democrats,” said Mark Gietzen, former Sedgwick County GOP chairman, now director of the anti-abortion group Kansas Coalition for Life.

Gietzen has been hurling brickbats at former conservative darling Tim Shallenburger, the party’s unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in 2002 and now the state GOP chairman. Before running for governor, Shallenburger was state treasurer and speaker of the Kansas House.

But now, Gietzen claims, Shallenburger’s gone soft on abortion.

“He’s made a point of welcoming pro-aborts into the Republican tent. He wants to make them an integral part of the party,” Gietzen said. “So at a time when other state parties are becoming more and more pro-life, we’re moving to the middle. This is stupid, it’s ‘Bleeding Kansas’ all over again.”

Gietzen told the Journal-World of his concerns after first posting his criticism in an e-mail to the Kansas Conservative Network.

In the e-mail, Gietzen accused Shallenburger of flip-flopping and “singing the praises of the pro-abort Republicans.” The party’s leadership, he said, had run amok.

TOPEKA — Tamara Cooper, Executive Director of the Kansas Republican Assembly, issued the following statement today about comments made by Mark Gietzen of Wichita to the Lawrence Journal-World.

The Board of Directors of the Kansas Republican Assembly wants to make clear that Mr. Mark Gietzen of Wichita does not speak in any way for the Kansas Republican Assembly. He is not an officer of our organization and had no right or basis whatsoever to claim that Mr. Shallenburger is undercutting the influence of KRA.

Mr. Gietzen is entitled to his opinion about current state GOP Chairman Tim Shallenburger. However, we believe his claims about Mr. Shallenburger’s commitment to the unborn are completely off-base and inaccurate. Tim Shallenburger has a long record of supporting efforts to rid our state and nation of the scourge of abortion.

KRA has an unwavering commitment to the unborn, a commitment shared by Mr. Gietzen and other conservatives unified for a single goal: to win big in 2006. But apparently Mr. Gietzen does not understand the role of a state party chairman. Any Kansan, regardless of his/her beliefs on any issue, can register as a Republican and participate in party activities.

Party officers have no power whatsoever to bar individuals from joining or participating in their parties. Mr. Shallenburger’s comments about Mrs. Praeger and other pro-choice Republicans are a mere recognition of this reality: there exists a small pro-choice minority within the Republican Party. Regardless of the fact that Mr. Shallenburger and the vast majority of the members of the State Committee are pro-life, those in the pro-choice Republican minority have just as much right to call themselves Republicans as does Mr. Gietzen.

The Republican Party, both in Kansas and nationally, is overwhelmingly pro-life. We have a pro-life President, a pro-life majority in both Houses of Congress, a pro-life platform, and a majority of pro-life leaders on the state level. The Kansas Republican Assembly is 100% committed, as we know Tim Shallenburger is, to maintaining the GOP’s long-standing commitment to the innocent unborn.

The Kansas GOP needs all Republicans to vote Republican in next year’s general elections if we are to defeat Mrs. Sebelius, Congressman Moore, and other Democrats.

Gietzen said, among other things, he and other anti-abortion activists were upset that Shallenburger has not restored a sharply worded anti-abortion plank in the party’s platform that was softened during Gov. Bill Graves’ administration.

“That should have been done on Kansas Day (at the state GOP convention in January) or the day after,” Gietzen said.

Shallenburger was elected chairman during the party’s Kansas Day midterm convention.

And Gietzen said he still resented Shallenburger telling the gathering that he welcomed having State Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger in the party.

Praeger, a former state senator from Lawrence, is well-known for her pro-choice position on abortion.Gietzen also accused Shallenburger and his supporters of undercutting the influence of the Kansas Republican Assembly, the conservatives’ party within the party.

“A lot of people are questioning what’s going on,” Gietzen said.

Gietzen’s e-mail triggered several dozen responses.

“It generated the most e-mail of anything I’ve ever written,” he said.

Reaction, however, was mixed.

Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, sent e-mails supporting Shallenburger.

Shallenburger also responded: “Not every Republican is pro-life, and not every Democrat is pro-choice,” he wrote, adding that the party would not work to defeat Republicans “even if they are pro-choice.”

Gietzen, however, argued that as long as the party remains open to “pro-aborts,” it will find itself “stumbling through the quagmire” and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, will most likely win re-election.

First District Congressman Jerry Moran, a Hays Republican, also endorsed Shallenburger.

“I think he is doing a good job,” Moran said. “I think the party’s more united now that it has been in quite a while.”

Moran warned that GOP “internal fighting … diminishes its chances of being successful in November.”

Moran, who opposes abortion, announced last week he would not run for governor. A close race, he said, would cause him to spend too much time away from his wife and two high school-age daughters who live in Hays.

Still, he said, “I thought I could pull the party together through the election.”

What about after the election?

Moran replied: “Governing in Kansas is a difficult thing.”

Shallenburger offered no apologies to his conservative critics.

“The reason I ran for party chairman was to unite the party and, frankly, I’ve had very good support from conservatives, despite what Mr. Gietzen seems to think,” Shallenburger said.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are a lot of pretty conservative people out there – pro-life, Second Amendment, lower taxes – who are willing to support a more liberal or moderate candidate if it means defeating Kathleen Sebelius and (3rd District Congressman) Dennis Moore,” a Democrat who represents the eastern part of Lawrence.”We’re headed in the right direction,” Shallenburger said. “It’s just that getting there can be an ugly process, like when things like (Gietzen’s e-mail) come up.”