Even as the country continues to be gripped by Donald Trump on almost a daily basis, a quiet revolution is simmering in the counties of Kansas, where more and more Republican lawmakers are choosing to switch sides and become Democrats, according to the Kansas City Star.
After Barbara Bollier, a member of the Kansas Senate representing the 7th district, left the Republican Party earlier this month, Sen. Dinah Sykes and Rep. Stephanie Clayton, both moderate Johnson County Republicans, said they are becoming Democrats. Republican lawmakers switching parties is seen as a direct result of a nationwide surge of Democratic voters in suburban areas, which is believed to have been responsible for the defeat of Kansas Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.
In a stinging rebuke to the Republican Party, Stephanie Clayton said that the GOP was supporting “chaos in public policy” and was not interested in the demands of the electorate.
“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,” Clayton said in a statement.
“My Republican Party, then, seems to no longer represent or serve the interests of the 19th District, Johnson County, or the State of Kansas.”
But it is Dinah Sykes’ comments about leaving the GOP that will hurt Republican lawmakers the most. Slamming the politics of division reportedly espoused by Donald Trump at the center, Sykes said that she could no longer live with the approach adopted by senior Republicans to “divide our country.”
“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. Increasingly, I see the Republican party focusing on issues and approaches that divide our country. I do not agree with that approach.”
Since @LauraKellyKS was elected Governor of Kansas, multiple Republicans have flipped to Democrats. This morning two more from Johnson County. Sen. @dinah_sykes and Rep. @SSCJoCoKs @41actionnews pic.twitter.com/CpyoarJ1vd
— Steven Dial (@StevenDialTV) December 19, 2018
With these Republicans switching parties, Kansas Democrats will now hold 41 seats in the House and 11 in the Senate when the legislative session begins in January. Earlier they held 40 seats in the House and nine in the Senate.
House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer welcomed the decisions of both Sykes and Clayton, saying the move will help them better serve their constituencies, but Republican Senate President Susan Wagle was understandably distraught at their decision to abandon the GOP.
“While I am disappointed that Senator Sykes will be joining the party of higher taxes and big government, she believes this move will allow her to better represent her district,” Wagle said.
In isolation, the switching of parties by Kansas Republicans might not appear as too big a problem two years ahead of the presidential elections, it nonetheless shows that moderate Republicans are getting increasingly skeptical of the direction the party is taking under Trump — and that can only be good news for Democrats.