In Party Switch, 3 Kansas Lawmakers Will Start The New Session As Democrats

Kansas, Topeka, Kansas State Capitol Building. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
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When the Kansas state government reconvenes in January, three of its formerly Republican members will report as freshly minted Democrats.

The two state senators and one state representative, all women, cited varying sources of their discontent within the GOP.

State Sen. Barbara Bollier started the trend last week, as first reported by the Kansas City Star.

Bollier attributed her change of heart to her disgust with President Donald Trump and the state GOP’s decision that it would “oppose all efforts to validate transgender identity.”

“I cannot be complicit in supporting that,” Bollier told the Star, referring to the Trump presidency. “I can’t call it leadership. I don’t even know what to call him. He is our President, but he is not representing my value system remotely.”

She added that the party is “hell bent” on removing moderates, the label she gives herself.

According to the Star, Bollier has a rich history of breaking with Republican Party leadership and had endorsed the Democratic candidate for governor during the midterms, earning retribution from the caucus. She also represents a district that is currently trending Democratic.

Her fellow state Sen. Dinah Sykes followed her lead Wednesday, also citing complaints with being a moderate trying to operate in an increasingly partisan Republican party.

“I am a moderate person who represents a moderate and pragmatic district that expects me to focus on issues and solutions that impact their day-to-day lives,” Sykes wrote in a Facebook post. “Increasingly, I see the Republican party focusing on issues and approaches that divide our country. I do not agree with that approach.”

She added that, when faced with the choice between fighting to change the Republican Party or fighting to help her district, she chose the latter.

The county containing the district she represents, Johnson County, voted for Trump in 2016, but only by 47.9 percent, about an eight-point drop from the state at large.

In the other chamber, Sykes’ neighbor state Rep. Stephanie Clayton jumped on the bandwagon too, citing a specific issue: education.

“I first ran for office in 2010, when my daughter was in first grade, because of the lack of stable funding for public education,” she wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post. “Leaders in the Kansas House and Senate have now indicated that they will seek to scrap the bipartisan education plan achieved over the last two years, just as we are so close to solving this problem and ending the cycle of school litigation. My Republican Party, then, seems to no longer represent or serve the interests of the 19th District, Johnson County, or the State of Kansas.”

“I have been a proud Republican my entire life,” she continued. “However, the recent moves to support chaos in public policy have caused me great concern. Johnson County is the economic engine of the state, and the fuel for that engine is our education system. I believe that I can better serve my constituents, and support education as a member of the Democratic Party.”

All three lawmakers represent suburban districts clustered close together, not far outside Kansas City. They may be taking their cues from the leading message of the 2018 midterms: the political swing leftward of suburban voters, many who reacted against Trump and his administration.

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