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SPOTLIGHT
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Let the party fights begin

Published on -1/28/2014, 12:31 PM

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Nobody expected a reception to honor dolphins, but the crowd at the Kansas Republican Party state convention in Wichita last weekend was more conservative than it has been in decades -- and even conservatives were being out-conservatived most of the celebratory weekend.

There was three-term U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins of the northeast Kansas 2nd District -- and who now is dean of the state's U.S. House delegation -- who picked up a primary election opponent at the GOP love fest.

Freshman State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, announced his candidacy to defeat Jenkins, creating a GOP primary election. He linked Jenkins to the U.S. House leadership led by Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. That leadership link -- Jenkins often is seen standing by Boehner at press conferences -- made her too moderate for Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, who ran twice for the Senate before winning the seat in 2012 -- with the help of a $1,000 campaign contribution from Jenkins -- believes a vote on an immigration bill in the House will come later than expected, essentially insulating its Republican supporters from retribution at the polls.

The result for the GOP brand name? Another primary election in which its members burn up money they might need at the general election to retain the party's majority in the U.S. House, where the numbers are the key, more important than their political leanings. It's the R behind their names that is what the party generically is after, while the political shadings are important to the feisty conservatives and ultra-conservatives.

But for the plugged-in at the GOP weekend at Wichita's Hyatt Regency, the Fitzgerald announcement was the smaller possible bump to a unified party.

The insiders were holding their breath to learn whether former eight-term 4th District Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, now the party's Republican National Committeeman after losing the Senate primary election to now-U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., would run for Congress again.

Remember the epic, party-shaking 2010 fight between Tiahrt and Moran for the Senate seat Sam Brownback abandoned to successfully seek the governorship?

The anxiety was whether Tiahrt would use the biggest gathering of Republicans this year to announce he is running for the Wichita-centric 4th District -- challenging two-term U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.

After a weekend of party insiders holding their breath, facing a high-level, expensive, money-from-the-general-diverting primary election, Tiahrt said he still was thinking it over.

The Fitzgerald-Jenkins race? It would cost a fraction of a Tiahrt-Pompeo race, if one occurs.

And for the party, every dollar spent in Republican vs. Republican fights is a dollar not spent against Democrats, whether at the federal or statehouse level.

Because we don't figure it will be spent to comfort dolphins.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of

Hawver's Capitol Report.

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