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Barton County GOP hears from Cruz, Kasich supporters
Cruz leads statewide in early counts
Republicans offer literature and yard signs for candidates, Saturday morning outside the Crest Theater in Great Bend. Barton County Republicans held their Kansas caucus inside the theater. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

The Crest Theater’s main floor seating was filling up Saturday and volunteers were considering opening the balcony as the Barton County Republican Caucus got underway. Several registered voters were ready to drop their ballots in the box and leave by 10 a.m., but County Chairman Richard Friedeman asked them wait until the end of a short party meeting.
After a prayer by Foundry Methodist Church Pastor Aaron Withrow and everyone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (led by Cole Sanders, a Webelo in Boy Scout Troop 184), supporters of the four candidates still in the race were invited to give short speeches.
Three people spoke on behalf of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and one spoke on behalf of Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Other choices on the GOP ballot were Sen. Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and undecided. The ballots also listed three Republican candidates who have dropped out of the race: Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson.
The Republican Party reported caucus attendance was up across the state compared to 2012, and Friedeman said early turnout was also up in Barton County.
“Republican turnout across the state has been incredible,” State party Chair Kelly Arnold stated in a media advisory. “Reports from dozens of county locations indicate that turnout is often four or five times that of 2012 and growing.
“This demonstrates the total dissatisfaction voters feel with the Obama administration and the sense of urgency to make a change in our country.
“Having Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump all appear in Kansas in the lead-up to the caucus served to drive turnout up far beyond even our highest estimates of even a week ago,” Arnold added.
In Great Bend, Casey Strong brought his 11-year-old son Colin to watch as he checked registrations. Strong later got up to speak on behalf of Cruz. He said he had done his homework, and had been able to meet all four of the remaining GOP candidates.
“I’m a firm believer that I don’t vote ever on just emotion,” he said. “We have got to get back to the Constitution of the United States.” Strong said Cruz was the only candidate who has consistently maintained his position on defending the Constitution, standing up to the Gang of Eight bill, Obamacare and attempts at gun control.
“Our Constitution and our Bill of Rights are under assault every single day,” he added. “I pray that you stand with me today and bring back our Constitution.”
Crystal Steege also spoke up for Cruz, saying she prayed for guidance and was moved when Cruz won the Iowa convention and quoted a Bible verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
“That’s my candidate,” Steege said. “Ted Cruz is a man of honor and respect. He will fight for us. He’s a gun-toting Constitutionalist.” She also mentioned Cruz’s filibuster for more than 21 hours “when they wanted to raise the debt ceiling.”
A man in the audience later stood and added his support for Cruz. “I was a Trump man for a long time. I liked where he was going. But Ted Cruz is a Constitutionalist.” He said that will matter when the next president nominates Supreme Court justices.
Speaking for Kasich was Phillip Kuhn, who suggested the country needs someone who is “bipartisan” in the Oval Office. “We’re not electing the president of Kansas,” he said. “I’m tired of gridlock.”
Kuhn said he supports Kasich because he will reach across the aisle. “He has executive experience – a lot of it,” he added, and solid foreign policy plans.
The Associated Press reported Cruz was leading Trump by more than a 2-to-1 margin in partial returns in Kansas. He attributed his strong showing to conservative coalescing behind his candidacy.
“God bless Kansas,” the Texas senator declared during a rally in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington D.C., is utter terror at what we the people are doing together.”