An opinion piece by area state Sen. Dinah Sykes laying out her reasons for leaving the Republican Party and becoming a Democrat has taken off since its publication Sunday.
The article, entitled “Why I left the Kansas Republican Party,” is trending as one of the most-read stories on the Washington Post today.
Sykes was one of three moderate Republican legislators from the Shawnee Mission area to announce she was switching parties last month ahead of the start of the new session in Topeka. Sen. Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills was the first to defect. Rep. Stephanie Clayton and Sykes announced their switch a week later.
In the article, Sykes says she became increasingly concerned with what she saw as divisive rhetoric from Republican officials, and that party leaders’ opposition to compromise was hindering the interests of her constituents.
“When a fixed ideological position was put ahead of the people I serve and their wishes, I knew that was unacceptable,” Sykes writes.
She said that the energy she spent trying to counter “ultraconservative” ideals took away from work on issues:
While I tried to be a rational voice, speaking up more and more within the party, my attention to these matters diverted me from working to help those who I serve on the issues that affect them the most — access to health care, fully funded schools, strong infrastructure and good-paying jobs. These are all issues that also happen to be at the heart of the Democratic Party platform.
If [Kris] Kobach embodied the direction the state and national party were headed and ultraconservatives continued to dominate the platform, I knew my values no longer aligned with the Republican Party, and I no longer wanted to be a part of it.
I want to work with other moderate, pragmatic leaders on policy that helps remove bureaucratic hurdles and helps government better serve Kansans rather than having to constantly disavow rhetoric designed to divide people. I can do that in the Democratic Party.