Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Conventioneering

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I'm not a big fan of the Kansas GOP Convention. The annual event went down without much of a hitch. I attended. 

As my traveling companion, who is not very active in politics said: It looked like a bunch of rich people trying to impress each other.

The friend didn't stay long at the convention. Friend simply stopped in to pick me up so we could spend the day hanging out once the things I needed to do were complete. And yeah, friend's description pretty much summed up why I can't stand the convention. 

I wish the state party would do a better job of getting regular people to the event. I did my part. I brought someone who otherwise isn't normally involved politically. I wish more people would do the same, and that everyone who regularly attends would work harder to make newcomers feel welcome. It seems like such a waste to get all of those politicians and lobbyists and staffers and grassroots advocates together without trying to bring in as many new people as possible. New people means political buy-in. More volunteers. More electoral wins. Dynamic and diverse ideas.

A bright spot this year: Someone actually decided to set up actual learning opportunities at the convention. This was sorely missing in previous years. It's usually just a lot of networking and fundraising. The actual exchange of ideas was limited before this year. Many kudos to whomever made the decision to offer sessions on things like social media and fundraising. 

Pretty much everything else was mildly tortuous. At least this year, one of the big name speakers invited by the Governor doesn't appear to be a criminal. (A few years ago, one of the big speakers, invited by Brownback personally, was Virginia's now disgraced former Gov. Bob McDonnell.)

My least favorite part of the entire thing is random people coming up to me and saying, Who are you? For the record, that's rude. If you want to know who someone is, the appropriate way to handle the situation is to say, "Hi, my name is Gidget." Most people will respond with their names.

The problem is most people don't want to actually know the individuals they're accosting with "who are you?" They are trying to determine if the "you" they're addressing is worth their time or effort. Are you someone who can get me up close and personal with someone important? Are you important? Do you have spare cash you'd like to donate to a cause? That's really what the question means, and I hate it.

I get that question a lot. I suspect it's because I look like I don't belong there. And I guess that's the true in some respects. I am a conservative first and a republican second. I care much more about winning issues than I do about having more people on the red team in office. The red team isn't that good at advancing its causes, even when they control the ball. 

So that brings me to the stunner of the convention: State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald is running against Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. (Gasp!)

He announced his intentions at the convention, and to hear people talk, you would think he beat a puppy and smacked his grandmother. The faux outrage was instantaneous and over-the-top.

People were angry that this upstart would dare campaign against a sitting Republican. The nerve of that guy who is going to cost campaign time and money and possibly affect other races by throwing his hat in the ring.

It is the exact same reaction that greeted Milton Wolf when he decided to run against Sen. Pat Roberts.

I disagree 100 percent with the angst. No one is entitled to a seat in the U.S. Congress. Not Lynn Jenkins and not Pat Roberts. I'm saying this as a person who likes both of them. 

The debate is worth having, and I personally think that having a primary opponent typically pushes Republican incumbents to the right. I think both Roberts and Jenkins will vote, speak and advocate further right knowing they have to face a very conservative primary electorate in the near future. Nothing wrong with that. 

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