Republicans in Kansas are considering a change to state party rules that would result in groups representing underrepresented constituencies like women, young voters and minorities being booted from the executive board, a move critics say will consolidate power around the party’s newly elected chairman.
Earlier this week, the Kansas GOP’s rules committee advanced a proposal to change years-old party bylaws in an effort to oust several special constituency groups, along with state and federally elected Republican officials, from the board, which oversees party operations and budgetary decisions. This would give a core constituency of loyal party insiders greater control over party operations and budgetary decisions.
The changes, which will be formally voted on this summer, would likely enhance the ability of the state GOP chairman, Mike Brown, to reshape the party in his own image. A far-right election denier, he won his position by just two votes in February after a failed bid for secretary of state last year.
But the proposed rule changes would push out groups the GOP has long sought to attract in recent years, setting back diversity efforts to attract support from the traditionally more diverse ranks of the Democratic Party.
Notably, Kansas voters decided in a referendum last year to keep abortion rights enshrined in the state constitution. And in the gubernatorial race, Democrat Laura Kelly was elected to a second term after nearly a decade of Republican control of the governor’s mansion.
Ben Sauceda, chair of the Kansas Republican National Hispanic Assembly, told The Kansas City Star that the proposed rule changes are “something that would set our party back dramatically.”
“The party that I worked to build was expansive, was growing, was a party built on ideals that welcome people and encourage people. Not one of fear and not one that is closed,” Sauceda said.
Brown, who espoused conspiracy theories about the result of the 2020 presidential election in his previous race, said in a speech before he was elected chair of the state party that Republicans were “not the party of equity and entitlement” but “the party of excellence and hard work.”
According to a draft plan obtained by the Star, the purpose of the proposed rule changes is not to explicitly exclude anyone but rather to make the executive board’s makeup resemble that of the Republican National Committee’s structure and have members elected by county precinct committee people, according to the newspaper.
While Brown, who did not write the proposal, said he would remain neutral in the debate over the rule changes, he criticized members of the party who expressed concern over the changes, saying they were trying to divide the party at a time the GOP needed support.
In a Facebook post, Brown wrote: “The unnecessary name-calling and intentional misrepresentation by some (many of whom were not even on the call to the best of my knowledge) regarding the committee’s discussion of a suggested rule change is not helpful and is being used by some in an attempt to create a wedge to divide Kansas Republicans when we can all agree we should be focused on unity.”
He added: “This dissension risks a negative impact on fundraising which puts at risks electing Kansas Republicans. This must stop.”
Newsweek emailed Brown seeking comment and left a voicemail with the phone number on his personal website.
In his Facebook post, he noted the proposal to change the makeup of the executive board was merely an idea and did not bind the party to any proposed change. “If the body decides the statement should not be approved, then the idea is dead. If the body approves the idea it will be adopted,” he wrote.