Elections

Some Kansas Republicans work to bury unease with Trump in call for party unity

Moran watching, hoping Trump campaign unifies Republicans

Sen. Jerry Moran was one of many Republican leaders grappling with having Donald Trump as the party's standard bearer in 2016. Moran was in Wichita to open his campaign headquarters.
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Sen. Jerry Moran was one of many Republican leaders grappling with having Donald Trump as the party's standard bearer in 2016. Moran was in Wichita to open his campaign headquarters.

The words “Donald Trump” caused a lot of eye rolling and head shaking at the opening Saturday of Sen. Jerry Moran’s campaign headquarters in Wichita.

But when the reporter’s notebook came out and the camera came on, they put on brave faces, saying they would vote for the Republican nominee for president, whoever that might be.

It presumably will be Trump, because there are no other active campaigns left in the Republican primaries and caucuses. Ted Cruz and John Kasich, the remaining Republican challengers, both dropped out this week.

Cruz won the Kansas Republican caucus on March 6 with 48 percent of the vote, while Trump came in second with 23 percent.

Moran, who came to Saturday’s opening, gave a delicate response as to whether he supports Trump.

Sen. Jerry Moran was one of many Republican leaders grappling with having Donald Trump as the party's standard bearer in 2016. Moran was in Wichita to open his campaign headquarters.

He thanked Trump for bringing more people to the election and for voicing the frustration many feel about the direction the country is taking. Moran said he hopes Republicans will come together to defeat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, but he himself stopped just short of endorsing Trump.

I’m anxious to see how this campaign develops, how he portrays himself, how he convinces the American voter that he has a plan to make America the country we want it to be.

Sen. Jerry Moran

“He says controversial things, and there’s a lot of space to be filled in on his policies,” Moran said Saturday. “So what I’ve said is that I’m anxious to see how this campaign develops, how he portrays himself, how he convinces the American voter that he has a plan to make America the country we want it to be. Ultimately, I hope we can rally to make certain that we have a Republican president in the election.”

Mostly, Moran said, he’ll be running his own race for re-election in Kansas, and there won’t be much overlap with Trump or his campaign.

Moran, who led the successful Republican Senate election effort in 2014, said his best guess is that Republicans might lose two seats in the much less favorable 2016 electoral map – which would keep the legislative body in Republican control.

Voting Republican

Other Republicans at the event, many of them state legislators or local office holders, struggled with having Trump as the party’s standard bearer.

“I will be voting for the Republican candidate, whoever it is,” said Les Osterman, who represents House District 97, insisting the nomination wouldn’t be final until the Republican convention in July.

And if it’s Donald Trump?

“If that’s who it is, yes,” he said.

“I know there are people who are having a time right now licking their wounds with what happened, but I think we need to come together and get behind the nominee,” said Mark Segovia of Wichita. “It’s been a struggle even for me.”

‘He will moderate’

Others said Trump can’t possibly mean all the insulting things he has said and the confusing policy positions he has taken during the ugly Republican primary campaign. He will change, become more reasonable, once the general election starts, they say.

While I don’t agree with all of his issues and would never go about it the same way he does or say the things he is saying, he will moderate a lot once he realizes he has to work with a lot of other people.

Carlos Mayans, a former Wichita mayor

“While I don’t agree with all of his issues and would never go about it the same way he does or say the things he is saying, he will moderate a lot once he realizes he has to work with a lot of other people,” said Carlos Mayans, a former Wichita mayor.

And others said they are watching closely to see that his vice president and Cabinet picks are more aligned with traditional Republican conservative values.

“Yes, Donald will be the forebearer, he will lead the charge, but once you see the whole team and teamwork from the ground on up, I think we will be in good shape,” said Gene Suellentrop, who represents House District 91. “So I’m comfortable with it.”

John Whitmer, who represents the 93rd House District in the Kansas Legislature, said Trump wasn’t his first or second choice but that he doesn’t want unhappy Republican voters to stay home, no matter what they think of Trump.

“I’ve got friends who are part of the ‘never-Trump’ crowd, and I just tell them: Never Hillary,” he said. “Come out and vote. If you can’t vote for Donald, then write in somebody, but come out and support the down-ballot races. Support Senator Moran, support Congressman (Mike) Pompeo and all the state Senate and House reps.”

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