Political party changes in Kansas

Kansas Statehouse.jpg

With four Republicans state lawmakers in Kansas switching to the Democrat party, KSN asked analysts if it will mean change at the statehouse.

“I’m not sure how many switchers there are going to be,” said WSU Political Science chair, Neal Allen.

Allen says the Johnson County Republicans who are now Democrats come from areas that have strong so-called moderate sentiment.
They include Barbara Bollier and Dinah Sikes in the Senate and Stephanie Clayton in the Kansas House.  Departing Rep. Joy Koesten of Leawood also switched to the Democratic Party.

After the switch, Kansas Republicans still have a majority of 84-41 in the House and 28-11 in the Senate.

But, there could be some changes after the switch.

“So that means they (Democrats) will get an extra member on some committees, which might matter,” said Allen. “Which might switch the committee majority from being a Democrat plus moderate, move from conservative, to the Democrat and moderate coalition.”

Allen says it’s in the committee arena where ideas get moved forward for a vote, or not.

Still, with a solid majority of Republicans in the Kansas House and Senate, the GOP has the potential lead in the vote count on the floor.

Allen says more funding for schools and expanded health care will get a look, with Kansas now having a Democrat Governor in Laura Kelly.

“Kelly is the first Democrat Governor in Kansas in eight years,” says Allen.

Governor-elect Kelly has been clear she wants to see Medicaid expanded.

But if that happens Allen says it would have to go through a Republican majority.

“The House is sorting itself out with the conservatives stronger,” says Allen. “And on Medicaid expansion it’s not clear where the majority is.”

Allen does not expect a mass exodus of Republican lawmakers in Kansas, saying the ones who have switched recently already had a moderate image and even moderate or Democrat leaning with their voting records. But he says the moderate Republican voice will remain strong in Topeka.

“Kansas is a conservative state but we have a lot of moderate Republicans and so you don’t find that in a lot of places,” said Allen.

Still, Allen expects conservatives to continue as as strong force in Kansas politics.

“And also in the State House and the Senate, too, we are long way from a Democratic majority,” said Allen. “And we’re not likely to get there especially if the Democrats can’t win seats in rural and small town areas and the last election showed they even lost in those places.”

Lawmakers get back to work after the first of the year.

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