November 28, 2002 - Johnson County Sun : Senegal RPCV Andy Wollen prepares for Peace

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 11 November 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: November 28, 2002 - Johnson County Sun : Senegal RPCV Andy Wollen prepares for Peace

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 28, 2002 - 11:40 am: Edit Post

Senegal RPCV Andy Wollen prepares for Peace

Read and comment on this story from the Johnson County Sun on RPCV Andy Wollen, newly elected chair of the Johnson County Republican Party in Kansas, and his plan to return civility to the political process and help the party recover from divisive wounds both old and new at:

GOP chair to work for peace*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

GOP chair to work for peace

By:Brian Settle, Sun Staff Writer November 28, 2002

Six years ago, Andy Wollen woke up each morning, rode a crowded subway train into the slums of Brooklyn, N.Y., headed to Bushwick High School and prepared for battle.

"Bushwick was the kind of school where you put your bag through an X-ray machine when you came in the front door to check for weapons," Wollen said.
The kind of school with 40 students in a classroom on the first day - and 35 chairs and 30 books.

"They count on at least 10 not showing up again the next day," said Wollen, who taught English as a Second Language.

Today, the 33-year-old Wollen wakes up each morning, drives his SUV from his Lenexa home and goes about his business as a mobile communications consultant for CAP Gemini Ernst & Young.

And as the newly elected chair of the Johnson County Republican Party, he prepares for peace.

Wollen defeated Lance Kinzer, an attorney who chairs the Olathe Republican Party, by 26 votes. He replaces Bob Bibb of Shawnee, and assumes leadership of a county Republican Party recovering from divisive wounds both old and new.

The old wounds surfaced in 1992, when conservative anti-abortion candidates took control of the party. In 1998, moderates wrestled control back. The lingering contentiousness between party conservatives and moderates opened a new wound on Nov. 5, when Democrat Kathleen Sebelius defeated Republican Tim Shallenburger for governor and U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore narrowly defeated late-charging GOP newcomer Adam Taff.

"And (newly elected Republican Attorney General) Phill Kline almost lost because of it," Wollen said. "We saw the impact of a divided party."

He said he has a clear vision of how to help erase the divisions.

"I want to return civility to the process," Wollen said. "There are massive amounts of experience and knowledge within the county party, and it's critical we use that. But one of the advantages of the younger generation is we don't bring the old war wounds with us that some people still carry."

Wollen, who graduated from Princeton University in 1991 before serving in the Peace Corps in west Africa, is adamant that county Republicans can - and will - come together by November 2004.

"I'm not naive about what happened," he said. "But it's not like it's fracturing and going down like the Titanic. We won all 21 of the legislative positions in the county that we ran a Republican candidate for."

He cites conservative Republicans such as Kinzer and state Sen. Kay O'Connor of Olathe as examples of party members supporting Republican candidates in the general election - even those candidates with whom they might disagree.

"I disagree with Lance and Kay on many issues," he said. "But I respect the way they closed ranks after the primary and worked their tail off for Adam Taff. They set aside things they disagreed on because they realized this was the best thing for the party as a whole. That's the model."

O'Connor said she is on board with that philosophy. "Absolutely. I'm very hopeful we've learned a lesson as a group and we'll stop fussing after the primary. We'll continue to disagree - even when we're elected we'll disagree. But we have to stop the public fussing."

The outgoing Bibb drew criticism from O'Connor and other Republicans for endorsing Taff in the primary election. Wollen is quick to note that he "supported Bob 100 percent during his time as chairman." But, he said, he doesn't expect party leadership to endorse primary candidates.

Wollen says any divisiveness within the county Republican Party extends beyond conservatives and moderates disagreeing about abortion.

"We talk way more about abortion than we need to," he said. "The Republican Party is about so much more than this issue. The challenge, of course, is that this issue is why many people got involved in politics."

The solution, he said, is "to unite the party by agreeing that nobody likes abortions. And the way we unite is to find ways to reduce the demand for, and the incidence of, abortions. What I would love to see our party say is 'abortion is an important issue among many other important issues.'"

Wollen said he hopes to work within the various factions to recruit large numbers of volunteers for the 2004 elections. "The county party doesn't have huge amounts of money for candidates," he said. "The currency we will have is volunteers."

It's a distinct possibility that one of those volunteers will be Parthena Taoultsides, whom Wollen will marry this summer. He plans to make the marriage work, he said, by using one of the tactics he plans to use to bring together the county's Republican Party.

"Communicate, communicate, communicate," he said.

©The Johnson County Sun 2002

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