Two More Kansas Lawmakers Leave GOP For Democratic Party

Two moderate Republican state lawmakers in Kansas have confirmed today they are defecting to the Democratic Party, just one week after two others made the switch.

On Wednesday, State Sen. Dinah Sykes and Rep. Stephanie Clayton announced on Facebook their decision to change their party affiliation. Both lawmakers are from the largely suburban Johnson County, the most populous county in Kansas.

Clayton—who has served as a Republican in the Kansas Legislature for the 19th District since 2013—explained that the move was in response to her belief that the Republican Party “seems to no longer represent or serve the interests" of Kansas’ citizens.

“I first ran for office in 2010, when my daughter was in first grade, because of the lack of stable funding for public education,” she wrote. “Leaders in the Kansas House and Senate have now indicated that they will seek to scrap the bipartisan education plan achieved over the last two years, just as we are so close to solving this problem and ending the cycle of school litigation. My Republican Party, then, seems to no longer represent or serve the interests of the 19th District, Johnson County, or the State of Kansas."

Clayton was raised in Johnson County where she attended Shawnee Mission Schools. After graduating from Emporia State University, she worked in museum marketing and public history.

Sykes—who had served in the Kansas Senate from the 21st District since 2017—said she is joining the Democratic Party because the GOP is “focussing on issues and approaches that divide our country.”

“At this time, I feel like I can either fight to change the Republican party or fight for the state I love and the people I serve. I think I can better serve my state and constituents as a member of the Democratic party,” she wrote. “I am a moderate person who represents a moderate and pragmatic district that expects me to focus on issues and solutions that impact their day-to-day lives. Increasingly, I see the Republican party focusing on issues and approaches that divide our country. I do not agree with that approach.”

Last week, State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a member of the Kansas Senate representing the 7th District, announced she will be abandoning the GOP party to become a Democratic member. “Morally, the party is not going where my compass resides,” Bollier said.

Outgoing Rep. Joy Koesten, of Leawood, Kansas, also declared on Thursday that she is moving from the Republican to Democratic party. "I just can't stomach trying to 'fit in' any more to a party that grieves me so each and every day," she said.

capitol_exterior_north02 Kansas GOP state lawmakers Sen. Dinah Sykes and Rep. Stephanie Clayton announced they will be defecting to the Democratic Party on Wednesday. Kansas State Historical Society

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