Politics & Government

Kansas Republicans open annual convention in Wichita

As campaign volunteer Jim Richardson looks on, Rep. Mike Pompeo talks about motorcyclists’ rights with activist Sis Bohrer of Atlanta, Kan., at the Republican state convention.
As campaign volunteer Jim Richardson looks on, Rep. Mike Pompeo talks about motorcyclists’ rights with activist Sis Bohrer of Atlanta, Kan., at the Republican state convention. The Wichita Eagle

Kansas Republicans launched their annual convention Friday night with a chance for their voters and foot soldiers to greet their leaders, with a bit of impromptu lobbying along the way.

It was mostly a night to socialize and renew political friendships, but one piece of business did get done when state Treasurer Ron Estes, Sedgwick County’s only statewide officeholder, announced his bid for re-election.

Estes said he thinks re-election is merited with his record of improving procedures for unclaimed property and Learning Quest, the state-managed college-savings program.

Estes is the first state treasurer to get the federal government to redeem abandoned U.S. Savings bonds held by the state. The money is kept in trust in case the original owners show up to ask for it, but investment income and interest goes to the state budget.

Estes said he also started a program to work with the Department of Revenue, trying to match the owners of unclaimed property to the state’s list of taxpayer addresses.

Formerly Sedgwick County treasurer, Estes announced his first run for the office at the GOP state convention four years ago and said he wanted to stay consistent with that. All the better that the convention is in Wichita for the first time in recent memory, he said.

Estes doesn’t know who he’ll face from the Democratic side, but said, “I know they’re actively recruiting against me.”

The convention’s real work begins Saturday morning with a variety of campaign training classes and party business meetings.

Friday was mostly about hand-shaking and hugs as the GOP faithful migrated through reception rooms sponsored by officeholders and candidates.

U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, said about four out of five people he met wanted to talk about one subject, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Pompeo is a staunch opponent of the national health plan.

He said one physician told him he was seeing fewer patients because of the act, “taking time away from patients to provide information to the government.”

But it wasn’t all Obamacare all the time.

Sis Bohrer of Atlanta, Kan., spent some quality time with the congressman talking about motorcyclists’ rights.

She asked Pompeo to do something about the “black boxes” installed in new cars and some cycles that record information on motorists’ driving habits.

“The government likes to confiscate those if there’s an accident … It’s none of their business where I go or anything else,” said Bohrer, an activist with ABATE of Kansas, a group that lobbies for cycle-friendly policies.

Pompeo gave her his card and the name of a staffer to talk with about her concerns.

The convention is also a place for new faces to circulate and try to drum up support.

One of those handing out cards was Alan LaPolice, who is planning a Republican primary challenge to Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler.

Although he acknowledges Huelskamp is one of the most conservative politicians in Congress, LaPolice said he represents a different kind of conservatism. He calls it “Goldwater conservatism” in honor of Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona senator who was one of the fathers of the modern conservative movement.

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