The Republican Party’s losses after the recently concluded midterm elections just keep piling up. In Kansas, they lost the governor’s race — and now a member of the state Senate, although not over an electoral outcome. This Wednesday, state Senator Barbara Bollier formally switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, marking the culmination of significant animosity with the party at large. For instance, she’d supported Democrats in the midterms — and over that issue been stripped of her committee assignments by party leadership.
Anti-transgender language in the GOP platform constituted the straw that broke the camel’s back, she’s indicated, but Bollier also supports key Democratic initiatives like expanding access to health care. You’d hope that would be a rather bipartisan issue — but here we are, with Republicans adamantly against health coverage expansion in the name of the “free market.”
Bollier has a personal stake in the issue with a background as a physician — making her partisan politics-driven removal from the state Senate’s Public Health and Welfare Committee that much more questionable.
‘Morally, the [Republican] party is not going where my compass resides. I’m looking forward to being in a party that represents the ideals that I do, including Medicaid expansion and funding our K-12 schools… I love my constituents and I love the state of Kansas, and I’m trying to find the path to serve them best.’
She’d previously supported a proposed new minor political party, but she says she concluded the best way to actually get the work she hoped for completed was through association with an established major party.
State Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley lauded Bollier’s work, commenting of her switch:
‘She has been a longtime friend and respected colleague with the best interests of Kansas at heart. Her expertise, pragmatism, and courage enrich the entire Kansas Legislature — regardless of whether she calls herself a Democrat or Republican.’
Bollier represents a district that has already proven its Democratic lean. Her constituents preferred Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly by a whopping 39 percent margin over the defeated Trump ally Kris Kobach.
Her district also intersects with a Congressional district that flipped in the midterms — the Kansas City area 3rd Congressional District, which Native American Democrat Sharice Davids will be representing come January 2019 after defeating incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder by roughly 10 percent. She’ll be the only Democrat in the state’s legislative delegation — and the first Native American woman in Congress ever.
She’s hardly alone in her accomplishment, with other milestones reached this year like the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress.
The Kansas state legislature, meanwhile, remains heavily slanted in the Republicans’ favor. Taking Bollier’s switch into consideration, Democrats will only hold 10 of the state Senate’s 40 seats.
Still, the shift comes in the midst of a much wider context of Republican losses. They lost some 40 seats in the U.S. House from across the U.S., meaning that come January, control of the national government will be divided between the right and left and President Donald Trump’s agenda will become that much more difficult to enact.
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