As Kansas lawmakers begin work at the Statehouse this week, the Sedgwick County Republican Party's new chairman is also getting settled in to his new role.
Dalton Glasscock was elected to a two-year term as chair of the SCRP in December. He first got involved in politics as a teenager, later interned for Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and served as chairman of the Kansas Federation of College Republicans. He recently was the political director of Ron Estes' successful congressional campaign.
As the county GOP's chairman, Glasscock, 24, will be in charge of filling vacancies for precinct captains — a role that receives little attention but plays and important position in state politics. He says as chairman his job isn't to influence party policies, but rather to "get Republicans elected."
And with Kansas' new Democratic governor taking office alongside a more conservative state Legislature, Glasscock says he's watching to see how Republicans can hold Laura Kelly accountable, while still avoiding a deadlock at the Statehouse.
Nadya Faulx: Broadly speaking, what are you hoping comes out of this session? What are you hoping lawmakers can accomplish over the next few months?
Dalton Glasscock: I mean, I hope over the next few months it's not a deadlock. I think a lot of time when we see a Democratic governor and Republican legislative body it's a deadlock. I hope that Governor Kelly and the Republican-controlled House and Senate can find ways to work together and ways to move Kansas in the right direction so that we can find bipartisan solutions to try and fix a lot of the problems that we see in Kansas.
What are some of those problems that you see?
I think one thing that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on and that I've heard talk about from both parties is criminal justice reform and trying to reform the process of just bringing people and reintegrating people back in society. I think that's a place that we could start.
You look at on the national level, you had the First Step Act. And I think that we can see that being modeled here in Kansas as well in this next legislative session. I've heard a couple of legislators talk about that's one of their priorities, and it will be interesting to see if we can take a lot of the things that were in the national First Step Act and bring those into Kansas and implement those here.
That was a bipartisan piece of legislation supported both by Donald Trump and Cory Booker. And if you can get them to agree in Washington, D.C., I think that's a good sign of something that we can get Laura Kelly and a lot of our conservative legislators to agree on as well.
Obviously the big news, too, like you said, is that we've got a Democratic governor and a more conservative Legislature. How do you see that playing out?
Yeah, I hope that we can work together; again, find those common solutions, or seek those problems that have common solutions. In addition to that I want our Republican legislators to stand strong on issues such as life, stand strong on fiscal responsibility as well. And so it will be unique seeing how our conservative Republican legislators hold the governor accountable and hold her accountable to the state of Kansas as well.
Let’s talk about your role as the Sedgwick County Republican Party chairman. Are there any top priorities specific to the Sedgwick County area?
I think one of my top priorities is to bring young people in and bring people that feel disenfranchised by both parties. Being only 24, I think I bring a unique perspective as the youngest county party chair that we've had. I’ve been trying to figure out ways to rebrand the party and also just market better to individuals. I believe the Republican Party is right on the ideas, and I believe that our ideas will always win out. However, for the past numerous years, and I mean, honestly probably since I've been involved, we don't know how to market those ideas. We don't know how to bring those ideas to the people and are really bad at telling our story.
[In] Kansas and specifically in Sedgwick County, Republicans have a stronghold on so many races and so many positions that I think we've taken a lot for granted. In many ways we've only spoken to people that agree with us. We've only [gone] to events of people that agree with us, and so something I'm very committed to over the next two years is ... going wherever I'm invited, but go into different communities that, you know, Republicans may not go to and also figure out ways to plug young people and plug minorities into the party as well. And just try to grow the brand of the party.
You've talked in the past about not wanting to limit the “Big Tent.” This was in 2016 when the party was considering opposing same sex marriage. And you yourself are the Sedgwick County Republican Party's first openly gay chairman. At the same time the Legislature in the past couple of years has passed some more conservative policies. There's ... under Brownback, rolling back protections for LGBT workers, the  faith-based adoption bill that a lot of people said was discriminatory against same sex couples. And last year the state Republican Party passed a resolution to "oppose all efforts to validate transgender identity."
Looking at what you want to accomplish as the chairman, opening it up to everyone and being more inclusive, do these policies need to change?
As chairman I'm not going to take any stance on any policy solely because we have a lot of representatives in our area that may have voted for the legislation or not voted for the legislation. And so we have Republicans that may agree with that and Republicans that don't agree with that. I think for individuals that still identify as Republican and may disagree with issues, this is your place to do it. This is your place to come into the party and say, 'Hey, I may disagree with you on issues, but I still want to be involved.'
And I think that's the perfect place for the party and that's why I believe in an open tent. I believe that we should be able to debate these ideas and hopefully the best ideas win out. I want to open the party doors to anybody and get every person involved. If you agree with those 80 percent of the time, you're still a Republican. And so I think a lot of those issues, we have Republicans that agree with the Adoption Protection Act; you have Republicans that disagree with it. You have Republicans that agree with some of the policy standpoints and Republicans that disagree with it. I think that's healthy for democracy. I'm willing to talk about these ideas and debate these ideas with anybody, and I welcome that dialogue in the party as well.
As a voter, can you talk about how you feel about those policies?
As chair, I'm not going to take any policy standpoint over the next two years. That was the commitment I made, regardless of whether that be conservative legislation or perceived more liberal legislation. My job's just to get Republicans elected. And again we have Republicans that agree and disagree with a lot of different stances, not just on this issue but, you know, fiscal responsibility or tax policy or immigration.
I mean, there's plenty of, [an] array of ideas and I think that's what's beautiful about the party is that you can have a different viewpoint and you can voice your viewpoint and our legislators have a vote in the box up in Topeka or a vote on the city council that they can make their voices heard and the individuals in their area can vote or choose to vote against them.
Initially this was only going to talk about the Legislature, but with [Sen.] Pat Roberts announcing his retirement in 2020 that's what people are thinking about. How are Republicans gearing up for that election, both here for that seat and just nationally?
One of my, actually, first bigger roles in the party was when I was a congressional field representative for Senator Roberts in 2014 for his re-election. And so I had the privilege of serving for the senator back in 2014. I served as an intern in his Washington, D.C., office and had that opportunity.
It’s going to be big shoes to fill whoever chooses to replace Senator Roberts. I mean, being chairman of the Agricultural Committee, and by the time he resigns he’ll be in Washington, D.C., for 40 years. He's a staple of Washington, D.C., and also a Kansas statesman. And so it will be big shoes to fill and a lot of people want to fill them.
And so I guess this will actually be larger than what we saw in the gubernatorial race. There is going to be a whole host of candidates who are going to throw their name in the hat, a lot of heavy hitters. So it’ll be a very interesting two years. You never get a break in politics. And I thought we'd get a little bit longer of a break than from November to January but it's already starting, it’s already kicking off, and it will be a very fun two years.