On Wednesday night, September 7, precinct leaders within Overland Park met, and voted to officially form the Overland Park Republican Central Committee. I offer my gratitudue and congratulations to the many people who made this possible. Soon, we'll have a Web site up, so check back to this Web site for further updates.
I was given the idea to form this Overland Park group after attending a similar formational meeting of the Gardner-Edgerton Central Committee (southwest Johnson County). Conservative Bill Sutton is the Gardner Republican Party Chairman. The successful Olathe Republican Party has been in operation for about 15 years.
There are two reasons that stick out to me, about why to form these city parties:
1. Simple efficiency of labor. There are a ton of voters out there. There are a lot of phone calls to make, new voters to register, and doors to knock on. There is little risk of overlapping work with other party organizations.
2. When other official Republican party groups are run by liberals, the conservative ones can step up to lead.
Congratulations to the new leaders: Chairwoman Nancy Hanahan, Vice-Chairman Bob Bruce, Secretary Joe Kain, and Treasurer Jackie Connolly.
I want to thank Olathe Republican Party leader David Lightner for attending, along with his wife, three-term former Overland Park Representative Patricia Lightner. Also in attendance were Gardner leader Bill Sutton and Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby. Out of respect to Election Commissioner Newby and his important job in Johnson County, I want to make it clear that Newby was in attendance for non-partisan educational reasons, in order to update guests on Kansas election laws (he was not there solely because it was a "Republican" event, but rather because it was simply an event with guests who were receptive to the relevant information).
We also appreciated hearing from Overland Park Representative Amanda Grosserode. We read aloud a letter of encouragement written by Grosserode, who was unable to attend because of a pre-scheduled family event.
Overland Park is the second largest city in Kansas, behind the city of Wichita. According to Census figures, Wichita has a population of 383,142; Overland Park's population is 173,909; and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, has a population of 157,845.
According to polling done by my educational organization, the State and Local Reform Educational Foundation of Kansas, 48% of likely 2012 Overland Park voters describe themselves as conservative, 36% are moderate, and 16% are liberal. But as with America, just because there are a lot of conservative voters, it doesn't mean that the elected officials are always good-government conservatives, and nor does it mean that the news media are properly informing the voters about how the regional governments are ACTUALLY spending tax dollars.
I'm confident that this new city party organization will play a helpful role in making necessary inroads into local public policy. You may recall that the Overland Park City Council recently voted 13-0 to raise property taxes by the ridiculous amount of 46%. The so-called Overland Park Chamber of Commerce endorsed the enormous property tax increase.
Polling showed that 80% of Overland Park voters opposed the property tax increase.
Leaders in Republican politics at the state-wide level and in Johnson County have rarely been conservative. There are exceptions, like recent state party leader (current Kansas Secretary of State) Kris Kobach and recent-past Johnson County leader Doug Patterson, but conservative leadership has been difficult to find. Indeed, from 1999 to 2003, Mark Parkinson was the state-wide Republican Chair, before switching parties in 2006 to be Lt. Governor with far-left Democrat Kathleen Sebelius.
In Johnson County, the county leader is Ronnie Metsker, an evangelical who supports pro-abortion politicians when they're nice people, who supports corruption-supporting politicians when they're nice people, and who avoids confrontation but calls himself a "Life, Leadership and Small Business Executive Coach." I doubt County Chairman Metsker will officially recognize either the Gardner nor the Overland Park group -- why, probably because he views debates about ideas to be threatening. But Metsker's term ends in 2012, and I'm confident that we'll be recognized by a future county party leadership team.
I have no idea what the leaders believe at the state party, and I wonder whether our county leader Ronnie Metsker knows what he, himself, believes.
Again, there's a need for fiscal conservative, good-government leadership within the Kansas Republican Party. That's why the Olathe Republican Party has been so important for years, and that's why these new groups in Gardner-Edgerton and Overland Park are so important.
Current Kansas Republican Party Chairwoman Amanda Adkins needs to tell Republican voters about her role in the strange attempt by Executive Director Clayton Barker to stop the Overland Park Republican Party from forming, in the first place. He sent an Email to precinct committee leaders, prior to the formational meeting, discouraging them from attending. What's funny is that Barker's Email may have backfired, causing even more precinct leaders to show up.
There's little doubt that Clayton Barker, the state party's top employee, was instructed to send that Email because of the concern that the new party committee in Overland Park would not be mere yes-men to the usually-pro-life (the most pro-abortion Governor in American history Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services?), fiscal moderate Gov. Sam Brownback.
I'll take this opportunity to note that the image/button that visitors are supposed to click on, under "Make a Donation" on the state party's Web site, doesn't work. But that's irrelevant: I will also encourage you not to donate to the Kansas Republican Party, until Amanda Adkins explains Barker's behavior.
To conclude, I'll once again offer out my thanks and congratulations to the Republican precinct leaders in Overland Park. This group is going to make a positive difference.
Connect with Benjamin Hodge at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, The Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas. He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College from 2005-’09, a member of the Kansas House from 2007-’08, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party from 2009-’10, and was founder of the Overland Park Republican Party in 2011. His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters,the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRA, Kansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).