By Angela Lingg
WICHITA — March 5 dawned warmer than usual for this time of year with the sun shining bright on thousands of Republican caucus-goers at Century II in Wichita.
The Wichita Eagle estimated that about 7,000 ballots were cast at the event.
Voters formed a line that snaked around the convention center.
Some voters stood in line for two hours just to cast their ballots. The big turnout for voting was probably due to the presence of two presidential candidates at the caucus.
The first candidate to appear was Donald Trump.
He attracted a large crowd to his rally, which began around 9 a.m.
Trump’s rally drew lots of cheers and boos, while inside the convention center, where the voting later took place, there was a calmer group of people gathering.
A tight pack of supporters massed around Sen. Ted Cruz as he shook hands, posed for pictures, and greeted them.
As people began to fill the auditorium, the candidates took the stage. Congressman Mike Pompeo spoke first in support of Sen. Marco Rubio.
“I want Marco to be our next president. Kansans need him to be our next president,” Pompeo said. “Marco will keep you, your children, and your grandchildren safe.
“We need a president who is tough enough to speak the truth and who does the right thing when it’s hard to do.”
Pompeo’s speech inspired both cheers and boos from the audience as he praised Rubio, but criticized Cruz and Trump.
Cruz, the second candidate, was welcomed to the stage by a standing ovation. He worked the crowd as he gave a passionate speech without notes.
“You can learn a lot about a word by studying its roots,” Cruz said. “If you look at the roots of the word politics, there are two parts. Poly, meaning many and ticks meaning blood-sucking parasites.”
parts, and ticks, meaning blood-sucking parasites. And that is a fairly accurate description of Washington, D.C.”
Cruz made many promises to the crowd about new jobs, a flat tax, and abolishing Obamacare and the IRS.
“The heart of our economy is not Washington D.C.,” Cruz said. “The heart of our economy is not New York City. The heart of our economy is small business all across this country. If you want to unleash incredible jobs, take the boot of the federal government off the back of necks of small businesses.
“If I am elected president we will repeal every word of ObamaCare.”
Caucus goers Jeanette Brennan, Valley Center, intended to vote for Cruz after his speech. “He has stood up while he has been in the Senate,” Brennan said. “He has not caved, like so many Republicans have, he has fought back, he has argued in front of the Supreme Court, and probably I should have mentioned first that he’s a Christian.” She said she appreciated the event but also wished the crowd would have been more civil and respectful to the candidates.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump was the final candidate to take the stage. Trump’s welcome was not as positive as Cruz’s. There was a mix of cheers and boos.
Trump focused on health care premiums, the military, veterans, trade negotiations, and the crowds’ favorite — building a wall.
“We are a country that has lost its way and that’s going to change,” Trump said.
“On our borders we are going to build a wall, that I can tell you. And as sure as you’re sitting there, Mexico is going to pay for the wall.”
Trump promised the crowd that he was going to make America great again.
“We are going to get rid of our debt, we are going to balance our budget, and we are going to have a country again. A country that is going to be sustained.”
Tom Small, a WWII veteran from Wichita, was still undecided on who he would vote for after the candidates spoke. “I probably will decide between Trump and Cruz or Rubio,” Small said.
“I’ve listened to Cruz and Trump a lot in their different debates and interviews and it was good to see them both up front. I really didn’t learn too much different, but I didn’t expect to really.”
Cruz ended up winning the Kansas primary with 48 percent of the vote.