In a post-election bombshell, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, Kansas, has defected to the Democrats just ahead of the 2019 legislative session.
Sen. Barbara Bollier tells KCUR the party of Donald Trump frightens her and the last election proves the Kansas GOP belongs to the president.
“I have been struggling for quite some time with the moral direction of the Republican Party,” Bollier says. “I should have done this long ago, intellectually. The party is not supporting a moderate voice anymore. They are working hard to end it.”
Bollier has never been a favorite with the Kansas Senate's conservative GOP leadership. She has supported Medicaid expansion, increased school funding and some gun control measures. The final straw appears to have been last July when she crossed party lines and endorsed a Democrat running against incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder.
Senate President Susan Wagle stripped Bollier of a committee leadership position. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park called her endorsement of Tom Niermann (who lost in the Democratic primary to Rep.-elect Sharice Davids) a "personal disappointment."
Bollier's fate in the Republican Party seemed to be sealed when she backed Democrat Laura Kelly for governor.
The Bollier defection did not come as a suprise to Senate President Susan Wagle from Wichita.
“Senator Bollier has a voting record more liberal than some Democrats, so it’s no shock she joined the party of Nancy Pelosi," Wagle said in a statement. "The only surprise is that she didn’t end her façade of being a Republican sooner.”
Denning was not nearly as harsh.
"It is unfortunate to be losing a member of the Republican caucus," Denning tweeted, "but I believe this will be a healthy change for Sen. Bollier personally, her constituents, and for the Republican Caucus."
Other moderate Republicans, however, were supportive.
"I think it's a moral loss for moderates," Sen. Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Republican, tells KCUR. "I don't know where I fit."
Sykes admits that going over to the Democrats has "crossed my mind" and that she has been approched by the party to do so.
In a tweet just a few minutes after the Bollier news broke, Kansas Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, said, "I am happy for and proud of my friend and mentor."
Bollier's district certainly leans Democratic. University of Kansas political science Prof. Patrick Miller says the change is not surprising.
"Bollier's politics are more in line with the Ds than the Rs these days. And she represents a legitimately D district, having been carried by every D running statewide in 2018," Miller tweeted.