PARSONS — As Kansas Republicans traveled to caucus sites around the state Saturday, the Cherokee County Republican Party loaded nearly 90 people on a chartered bus for the trip to the caucus site at Memorial Hall in Parsons.
After three hours of speeches and presentations the final victor was former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who won the state by a wide margin.
With his win on Saturday, Santorum collected 33 of Kansas' 40 delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention. Romney still leads the overall delegate count, with 441 to Santorum's 213, and maintains a lead over Santorum by 10 points in the national polls. A candidate needs a total of 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination.
Santorum supporters Kyle and Mandy Schape of Mound Valley, Kan. brought their five children to the caucus.
Kyle Schape said he supports Santorum because of his values.
"He's pro-life and supports the NRA," he said.
He said they brought their children at the children's request.
"They wanted to come, they wanted to learn about the system," he said.
Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul both campaigned in the state last week but former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich canceled his appearances at the last minute.
Cherokee county Republican party chairwoman Lorie Johnson said she was thrilled with the turnout in the area caucus but was disappointed that Gingrich had pulled out.
She said before Saturday’s events that Gingrich's decision to cancel his appearances in Kansas on the eve of the caucuses would probably benefit Rick Santorum. That appeared to be the case by Saturday evening.
Former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney did not campaign in Kansas and garnered just 21 percent of the final vote.
Romney’s loss in Kansas points to his continuing difficulty attracting conservatives: Kansas is one of the most conservative states in the nation, and its electoral votes haven’t gone to Democrat since Lyndon Johnson won the White House in 1964.
Regardless the overriding theme of the Kansas caucuses was the need to defeat President Obama in November.
"We cannot afford, and more importantly our children cannot afford, four more years of Barack Obama," Lorie Johnson said.
The sentiment was echoed by representatives for all four major candidates who all stressed they felt the GOP has four strong candidates.
Don Alexander, who spoke for Santorum's campaign was adamant on the need to defeat the president.
"If you think Obama was radical the last four years," he said, "wait until he has four more years and he's not running for election."
Final caucus results for Cherokee County:
Official results from all participating counties:
Total counted ballots: 593
Total ballots cast: 614