Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D) said that, in addition to the three lawmakers who defected from the Republican Party in recent days, the Democratic leadership is eyeing “three or four” more lawmakers who might be compelled to flip.
“We’re not done,” Ward told TPM on Wednesday. “We’re gonna continue to recruit.”
Ward attributes the party change of state Sens. Barbara Bollier and Dinah Sykes and Rep. Stephanie Clayton to two main factors: the inhospitality of the Republican Party and the leftward political shift of the districts they represent.
He said that the three women, “policy wonks, pragmatic types,” were turned off by the GOP’s role in a court battle to get sufficient funding for K-12 public education, objection to Medicaid expansion and routine blocking of bills from the floor.
“The Republican Party was obstructing every step,” he said.
He added that the three women live in districts that are getting progressively Democratic. “Their districts moved away from Republicans, period,” he said, adding that in 2018, Democrats claimed “significant wins against very strong, entrenched, popular, moderate Republicans,” which likely spooked the three centrist former-Republicans.
Ward said that with the remaining possibly flippable lawmakers, the question remains whether their districts are trending as aggressively Democratic.
“The big factor is if their districts would support them after changing [parties],” he said. “With the people we’re looking at now, that’s the argument we have to make to carry them.”
But, as Ward pointed out, the three defections the Democrats already secured are significant wins. “This is just like Christmas,” he said. “Even if we get no more, this is a fabulous post-election recruitment.”
Still, he’s optimistic. “Our message is good and the people of Kansas are more receptive to what we’re talking about than the Trump Republicans in charge of the party right now.”