Two more Kansas Republican lawmakers from the metro jump ship to Democrats

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Two more Kansas legislators have abandoned the Republican Party and are now sitting on the other side of the aisle, joining two other metro-based lawmakers who made the switch last week.

The decision to change party affiliations for former Republican state Sen. Dinah Sykes, of Lenexa, wasn't an easy one. Sykes said she was trying to promote change in the state's Republican Party, moving the party toward the center to appeal to her constituents.

Sykes decision to defect was solidified after moderate Republican state Sen. Vickie Schmidt became Insurance Commissioner, and a right-wing conservative was chosen by precinct electors to fill that seat.

Kansas state Sen. Dinah Sykes

"I think moderates are: How do we have effective government? Going to the DMV, being able to get your driver’s license, mental health needs, health care, good roads, good schools," Sykes said. "And the bottom line, the ultra-conservative is the lowest taxes possible."

Republicans who spoke to FOX4 are mixed on whether or not this is an abandonment of their vote.

“Once elected as a conservative, I would hope that they remain there. It is hard to me to understand how anyone could switch to another party,” Roscoe Yoder said.

On the other hand, Kevin Kennedy believes, "I think people are -- they just don’t like that extreme. They want more middle, common sense approach to things, particularly education."

That's exactly why former Republican state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park, also now sits on the other side of the aisle in the Kansas House.

“What played into my decision to switch parties was an announcement made by House and Senate leadership that they were planning on scrapping the education plan that was led by them and that was worked on by a strong bipartisan group, all stakeholders at the table,” she said.

Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Clayton

Clayton sees a threat to education as a threat to the economic stability of Johnson County and the state.

This newly declared Democrat believes she could not fight effectively as a moderate Republican without facing repercussions.

“Some of those repercussions tend to keep a lot of them out of office,” Clayton said. “Some of the best Republicans we ever had in the State Legislature were all targeted in the primaries and generals for supporting education.”

State Sen. Barbara Bollier, of Mission Hills, was the first Republican to abandon the party last week. Departing state Rep. Joy Koesten, of Leawood, also switched to the Democratic Party last week.

Bollier has said that as a result of her endorsement across party lines to support incoming Gov. Laura Kelly, she was stripped of her vice chairmanship on the Public Health and Welfare Committee and completely removed from three other committees.

Senate Majority Leader Susan Wagle did not respond to our request for an interview regarding Sykes' decision.

In response to Clayton's departure, House Majority Leader Ron Ryckman issued the following statement:

“The voters elected her as a Republican just six weeks ago. While this certainly raises questions about a lack of transparency, this is a decision ultimately between Rep. Clayton and her constituents. We wish her well with the change.”

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