State GOP hopes loyalty committee will stop defectors

? Burned by several high-profile party switchers, the Kansas Republican Party has formed a loyalty committee to make sure Republican officials toe the GOP line.

Under a change made to the state Republican Party’s constitution, officials who hold party positions could be stripped of their party titles if they are found to be helping a Democrat get elected.

“There are times where the party needs to unite under just one banner,” Kansas Republican Party executive director Christian Morgan said Monday.

“At the very base level, if you can’t get county officers and district officers, if you can’t get them to stop backing Democrats, then you have serious problems,” Morgan said.

Morgan said if a Republican Party official decides he or she cannot help a fellow Republican, then the proper course of action should be to remain quiet.

“If you can’t stomach a Republican in the election, then you can sit on your hands,” he said. “You can’t go out there and support the opposition.”

The change was approved at the mid-year GOP convention Saturday. The loyalty committee will be headed by State Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach, who sought the change.

Although the dominant party in Kansas, the Republican Party is split between conservatives and moderates. Kobach is a conservative. The party divide is often over abortion, with conservatives opposing abortion while moderates support abortion rights.

Andy Wollen, chairman of the Kansas Traditional Republican Party, said the loyalty committee was a bad idea.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Wollen said. “It’s just the latest demonstration that these people just flat don’t understand people,” he said.

Wollen said he believes that Republicans Party officials should support Republicans, but that forming a committee to investigate party loyalty would just make people angry.

“You don’t coerce people into being loyal to the Republican Party. You have to earn loyalty,” Wollen said. “You don’t win elections by winnowing down your membership. You win elections by growing your membership.”

Douglas County Republican Party Chairman Craig Campbell said Republicans should be loyal to their fellow party members but disagreed with the formation of the loyalty committee.

“I don’t like saying that if you don’t fit in our little box, let’s kick you out,” Campbell said.

He said a situation could arise when a candidate who is outside the realm of mainstream politics wins a Republican primary. Republicans shouldn’t have to remain silent in such a case, he said.

Last year, moderate Republicans Paul Morrison and Mark Parkinson, a former state Republican Party chairman, switched to the Democratic Party, saying that the GOP had been taken over by narrow-minded conservatives.

Morrison defeated conservative Republican Atty. Gen. Phill Kline in a landslide, and Parkinson was elected lieutenant governor as part of the ticket of Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

In addition, many Republicans have vocally and financially supported U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat whose district includes eastern Lawrence and Douglas County, and other Democrats. Moore defeated Kobach in 2004.

Morgan, the state Republican Party executive director, said he doubted that the loyalty committee would be used often. He noted it would take a four-fifths vote by the five-member committee to strip someone of their job title, and there is an appeals process.

Kansas Democrats said they have no similar committee.