Sedgwick County Republicans have elected their first openly gay chairman, 24-year-old former congressional aide Dalton Glasscock.
Glasscock, who had not previously gone public as a gay man, won the chairmanship in spite of a back-channel campaign of e-mails and texts sent to precinct committee members identifying him as “homosexual.” The precinct committee elects the party’s officers.
The messages questioned whether Glasscock would uphold the state party platform’s call for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to male-female couples and a party resolution passed in February opposing “all efforts to validate transgender identity.”
After the 97-75 vote that installed him as party chairman, Glasscock said he was looking forward to “bringing new, vibrant energy to the party and bringing people together uniting the party.”
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Before Thursday night’s meeting, Glasscock confirmed to The Wichita Eagle that he is gay.
He said he hadn’t planned to bring it up, but since those opposing him did, he was just going to “go with it.”
He said he felt it was worth it if it could inspire even one other young person to be honest about their sexual orientation.
Some of the messages that had been forwarded around before the meeting were attributed to party officials, but the actual origins remained unverified.
Mark Kahrs, an attorney and Republican National Committee member, said he did not write a message that had been making the rounds attributed to him.
“I did not know anything about (Glasscock’s) sexual orientation, nor do I care about it,” said Kahrs, a former state legislator and a staunch social conservative.
“I wish him the best,” Kahrs said. “Hopefully he’ll be a strong leader for the party that will support our entire state party platform.”
Kahrs nominated Glasscock’s lone opponent, Robyn Johnson. She’s a business owner, former party vice chairwoman and longtime Kansans for Life activist.
Johnson didn’t mention Glasscock’s orientation in her speech, but did highlight the party platform and traditional Republican values. She said she graduated from Wichita State University in 1990 and married her college sweetheart three weeks later.
“Since then, I have done nothing but love and raise my family, serve our God, country and community,” she said. “I’ve spent my entire adult life working within the Republican Party to achieve the wonderful platform we have today — a platform that espouses the principles of life, marriage, religious liberty, free markets, the Second Amendment, secure borders and legal immigration.”
Glasscock has been active in Republican politics since high school, founding or leading GOP groups of teens, college students and young professionals.
Former party chairman Bob Dool praised Glasscock as a talented organizer and leader and put his name in nomination. Dool’s nominating speech was read by his wife, Rosie, because he recently had surgery affecting his vocal cords.
“Dalton is a man of his word,” the speech said. “He’s a strong Christian and staunchly pro-life. Dalton may be young, but he is eminently qualified and he is the future of the conservative party.”
Glasscock worked as a field aide for Rep. Ron Estes from the special election that put Estes in office last year until the Nov. 6 election. He resigned to take a job in media with Todd Starnes, a Fox News Radio talk show host.
In his speech, Glasscock highlighted his work on behalf of Republican groups and candidates.
“You know me,” Glasscock said. “I’m the same guy that stood alongside you during rainy sign waves, knocked (doors) with you in scorching heat and phone-banked late into the night. I’m running for chairman with the sole purpose of winning elections and strengthening our local party.”
Not everyone was pleased that Glasscock’s sexual orientation wasn’t brought up during the meeting.
Judy Park, founder of the local chapter of Republican Women United, said it should have been disclosed and discussed before the votes were taken. She said she had been told Glasscock would pursue a pro-LGBT stance and wanted him to address that.
“In my opinion, the whole truth was not told up there,” she said.
Glasscock said he separates his party duties from his personal life.
“I think my job as chairman is to enforce whatever platform the (state) delegates decide on,” he said. “My job as chair is just elect Republicans first and foremost. There will be Republicans that agree with 100 percent of the platform, there will be Republicans that agree with 60 percent of the platform. My job’s to elect them both.”
Shortly after being elected as chairman, Glasscock appointed Ben Sauceda, a Park City city councilman, as the party’s executive director.
Other party officers elected Thursday include Tonya Buckingham, the county register of deeds. She just completed a term as party chairwoman and will now serve as vice chair.
Andy Hooser, a talk-show host on KQAM radio, was elected as party treasurer and Angela Caudillo, a manager in the county’s Comcare mental-health services department, was elected as secretary.