U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran told the Pachyderm Club on Friday that the Republican Party "went astray" over the past several years and needs to return to its core values so it can lead the country to a brighter future.
"Things must change" in Washington, said Moran, R-Hays, who faces Todd Tiahrt of Goddard in the August primary for a U.S. Senate seat. "I know that was the theme of an election a few years ago ... the change that we got is the wrong change."
Moran said he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1996 as a conservative.
"I have become more conservative over the time that I have been there," he said. "I've seen that government does not work very well in many instances. A bureaucracy is not the solution to our problems.
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"Who wouldn't be conservative when it comes to spending money when our country is bankrupt?"
The nation got there, he said, by borrowing and spending too much.
"It's embarrassing for me to tell you, but we did this with a Republican president, Republican House and Republican Senate," Moran said.
Calling it an example of how power corrupts, Moran said, "Republicans started behaving like Democrats: 'What can we do to deliver goodies to the folks back home so we can get re-elected?' "
One example of that, he said, is the No Child Left Behind Act. Republicans crafted a law that has greatly burdened teachers and school districts without really improving education.
"Education is so important that it ought not to be turned over to anybody in Washington, D.C.," he said, drawing sustained applause.
Republicans must stress personal responsibility and smaller government and offer compelling alternatives to resonate with voters, he said.
Moran said he's troubled by what he sees as Congress' attempts to reform health care.
"It's no longer about passing something that makes sense or will work," he said, "it's about passing something."
In that sense, Moran said, it's business-as-usual politics, not the "change" that has been promised in Washington.
"How we change the country, how we change the world, starts with how we change ourselves," he said. "We change the world one person, one soul at a time.
"Don't wait for the Congress and the president to make the world a perfect place."
Aware that he was speaking in Tiahrt's backyard, Moran avoided attacks on his opponent.
"I'm running for the Senate for myself," he said. "I'm not running against Todd Tiahrt."
Moran spelled out his stances on various issues:
* He opposes legislation to grant in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants and drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants.
* He supports term limits.
* He strongly supports an overhaul of the "earmark" system in which members of Congress earmark money for projects in their home districts. That, he said, leads to bloated spending bills.
* He supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
* He is a sponsor of legislation requiring that members of Congress be subject to the terms of the health care plan.