Kelly Arnold to run for chairman of state Republican Party

Sedgwick County Clerk Kelly Arnold has announced his candidacy for chairman of the state Republican Party.

Arnold, now state vice chairman, said he would seek the top post when the party convenes for its annual Kansas Day state convention in Topeka, Jan. 24 and 25.

If he wins, Arnold would be the first Wichita-area Republican to be elected state chairman since the late Jack Ranson, who served in the post from 1973 to 1979.

But where Ranson was a leader of the moderate wing of the state GOP, Arnold is closely tied to the conservative movement that cemented its dominance of state government in this year’s Republican primary elections.

“While we watched disappointing result after disappointing result at the national level, the 2012 Kansas election cycle will be remembered as a Republican landslide, entrenching the foothold of elected Republicans and solidifying the voters’ mandate of the vision, values and solutions that drove conservative campaigns in Kansas,” Arnold said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “If Republicans are going to win future elections, it will be because we communicated our conservative principles and ideas effectively.”

Serving as party chairman has been a mixed bag when it comes to seeking higher office.

The most recent success in that vein has been Kris Kobach, who won election as secretary of state in 2010 after serving as GOP chairman from 2007 to 2009.

But David Miller, a conservative who was party chairman from 1994 to 1998, lost in a primary challenge to then-Gov. Bill Graves. Two other GOP chairmen, Tim Shallenburger (2005-2007) and Morris Kay (1979-1983), got the party job after losing a gubernatorial race.

One former GOP chairman did make it to the governor’s mansion, but only after switching parties.

Mark Parkinson, GOP chairman from 1999 to 2003, successfully ran as a Democrat for lieutenant governor with then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2006. He succeeded to the governorship two years later when Sebelius resigned to become Health and Human Services secretary in President Obama’s Cabinet.

Ken Ciboski, a professor of political science at Wichita State University who closely follows state Republican politics, said he hasn’t yet heard of anybody else making a bid for the chairmanship. But, he added, it’s still early.

“Somebody might decide to run against him (Arnold),” he said.

It’s unlikely that a challenge would arise from among the state party’s current officers. Arnold has assembled a slate to run with him including:

Arnold said his main goal is to “refine our message and work to make sure our conservative principles become a reality by winning important elections for years to come.”

Arnold also said he and his team would concentrate on bringing Republicans “another clean sweep” in the 2014 election when Gov. Sam Brownback and statewide office holders – currently all Republicans – will have to run for re-election.

If he wins the chairmanship, Arnold will succeed Amanda Adkins, an executive with the health-care information technology company Cerner Corp. Adkins was campaign manager for Brownback’s 2004 U.S. Senate re-election campaign.

Adkins has served as party chairwoman since 2009.