February 6, 2012

Kansas GOP preparing for March 10 caucus

Kansas Republicans will gather across the state on March 10 to have their say on who will carry their banner into battle against President Obama in the November election.

Kansas Republicans will gather across the state on March 10 to have their say on who will carry their banner into battle against President Obama in the November election.

In Sedgwick County, the party caucus will be held, as it was four years ago, at the Century II Convention Center in Wichita, party officials announced Monday.

The doors will open at 8 a.m. with the voting process to take place about 10 a.m. The caucus is a “closed” caucus, meaning only registered Republicans will be allowed to vote. Photo ID will be required. Participants must be registered to vote as a Republican by Feb. 17 in order to participate, party officials said.

Democrats are still lining up sites for their somewhat more diffused process, which will be organized along state Senate district lines and take place on April 14.

In a volatile year in Republican politics, it’s not yet clear whether the nomination will be essentially wrapped by the time the election calendar rolls around to Kansas.

The Saturday caucus date means Kansas will be the first Republican test after 10 states go to the polls for the “Super Tuesday” primaries and caucuses.

The frontrunner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, could have the nomination all but sewn up by then. Or, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and/or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who have shown strength among more conservative elements of the party, might gain ground with a good showing in the southern states that vote on Super Tuesday.

In 2008, about 4,000 Republicans turned out in Sedgwick County and threw most of their support behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was then fighting an uphill battle against the party’s eventual nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Both candidates made rare campaign stops here.

Wichita-area Republican leaders are preparing for the same kind of turnout they had four years ago.

The Santorum and Gingrich campaigns have contacted the local party to have a supporter speak for them at the county caucus, said Bob Dool, Sedgwick County party chairman. “We haven’t heard from anybody for Romney yet,” he said.

At the least, the caucus will offer Republicans a chance to rally and show support for the party, Dool said.

Republicans who are interested in learning more about the caucus, or volunteering to help run it, can attend a party meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Wichita Independent Business Association office, 730 N. Main, Wichita.

Clay Barker, executive director of the state Republican Party, is scheduled to speak.

The Kansas Republican Assembly is postponing its regularly scheduled Thursday meeting so members can attend the party meeting.

The KRA will meet instead on Feb. 16 at Mike’s Steak House, 2131 S. Broadway, Wichita. The subject of that meeting will be the Feb. 28 Wichita hotel tax referendum election.

Republican Women United will also be holding an informational session on the upcoming caucus, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Lakeside Estates Clubhouse, 12219 W. Sheriac, Wichita.

With an incumbent president heading the ticket for their party, the Democrats will have less to do at their caucuses than they did four years ago, when Kansans went for Obama over former first lady and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Still, the Democrats are expecting decent numbers based on the turnout already seen in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida primaries, said Kansas Democratic Party executive director Jason Perkey.

“We’re going to try to drum up as much excitement as we can for the president,” Perkey said.

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