An influx of ex-GOP moderates isn’t exactly the medicine the Democratic Party needs right now, but beggars can’t be choosers.
On Tuesday morning, Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Clayton and state Sen. Dinah Sykes announced their plans to switch parties and become Democrats, according to KCUR. Both Clayton and Sykes were previously moderate Republicans representing Johnson County, the most populous county in the state. Citing the GOP’s unending swing to the far-right, they joined state Sen. Barbara Bollier in becoming the second and third legislators to defect in the past week.
Speaking with KCUR, Clayton said that she had hoped the state party’s extremist turn would ultimately be a “blip” that died down. The tipping point, she told the local station, came when the GOP leadership in the state House hinted that it might alter a crucial school funding bill passed in June.
“I’ve been in this a long time and things are not blowing over,” Clayton told KCUR. “Things have not changed. They appear to be getting worse.”
Similarly, Sykes told the Topeka Capital-Journal that she felt her time would be better spent fighting for policies that could actually help her constituents from inside the Democratic Party, rather than spending any more time attempting to keep Kansas Republicans from becoming a full-on branch of the alt-right.
“I feel like I can either fight to change the Republican party or fight for the state I love and the people I serve,” Sykes said in an interview with the Capital-Journal. “I think I can better serve my state and constituents as a member of the Democratic Party.”
The defections won’t monumentally affect the way that state politics work in Kansas—including Bollier and state Sen. John Doll, who changed his party status to independent in March, the GOP will still own the Senate 28-11-1, while the House will be in their favor by a margin of 84-41. What the lawmakers’ decisions signify is the increasingly steady base of suburban communities that the Democratic Party dominated in the 2018 midterms. Given Johnson County borders Kansas City and is home to the second-largest city in the state in Overland Park, Clayton and Parks are banking on voters appreciating their moderate tendencies and disassociation with the GOP.
Sensing that their party was increasingly becoming synonymous with words like “racist” and “assholes,”—thanks in part to racist assholes like the one who called U.S. House Rep.-elect Sharice Davids a “radical socialist kickboxing lesbian”—the trio of Kansas suburban representatives made the politically expedient decision and jumped ship.