In recent days 3 legislators and one soon to be former legislator announced that they either have switched, or will be switching their political affiliation from the Republican to the Democrat Party. All are from Johnson County and all are women so the media has been falling all over themselves to spread the current revealed wisdom on the left that Republicans have “lost” suburban women.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, at least in these cases, that’s not true. Indeed, when one actually looks at these four women, these changes will, for the most part, make the legislature more conservative, not less – if it makes any difference at all.
Let’s take a look. The first legislator we’ll discuss is Joy Koesten. Joy was a Democrat who changed to being a Republican specifically to run for the legislature in Leawood. She won, spent one term in the house and was defeated in the primary for a second term by solid conservative Kellie Warren. Within a few months of losing she once again announced that she was switching back to being a Democrat. In essence, Republicans lost nothing and, Koesten’s seat is now in conservative hands. Plus one for conservatives.
The legislator launching this mythical “trend” is Barbara Bollier, a Senator from Mission Hills. Bollier was a member of the antiquated country club Republican set that has been on the wane since the mid 90’s owing to the impact of David Miller’s organizing of religious conservatives. However, it largely retained its hold in the eastern Johnson County area of Prairie Village and Mission Hills with a loose knit coalition of Democrats and left-leaning Republicans.
Bollier however has been far from a traditional Republican. In the Senate, she has often caucused with Democrats. Worse yet, during the past legislative session Bollier embarrassingly stood in the well of the Senate to denounce Catholics (and by extension all Christians) who believe in sin as being unfit to place children for adoption.
(See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr6hiwFQRDU&t=28484s starting about the 7 hour and 47 minute mark)
Bollier followed that with endorsements of Democrat Tom Niermann in his party’s Congressional primary and then joined with the traditional group of “Republicans for (insert name of Democrat here)” in endorsing Democrat gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly in the general election.
Bollier was stripped of her leadership position on a key Senate healthcare committee as a result of the Niermann endorsement and, by August, Senate Republicans were exploring options to oust her from the Senate completely.
If her party’s open hostility towards her was not sufficient motivation to leave, certainly the defeat of fellow liberal “Republican” Representative Melissa Rooker to Democrat Rui Xu should have provided the final impetus to go. Rooker’s House District 25 is virtually contained within the core of Bollier’s Senate District 7.
That said, according to Bollier, the final straw was the Republican Party’s official position in its platform that there are only two genders, male and female. Fortunately for Bollier, most in the media broadened her statement to make it include a more generalized support for the LGBTQ agenda.
While Democrat legislative leaders rushed to embrace Bollier, giving her a plum committee assignment, her newly found comrades on Twitter were less than generous. To them her previous decisions, including those on education, were too conservative. However, more ominous is the fact that her district, like Rooker’s, is in the heart of Johnson County’s looney left area. There, Mission City Council member Sollie Flora declared at a recent conference on climate change that “one of the most powerful solutions to reverse global warming” was “Smashing the patriarchy…” and no, I’m not kidding. Expect a Democrat primary challenger in Senate District 7 next time around.
As for the final two, Senator Dinah Sykes and Representative Stephanie Clayton, again, their switch changes nothing. Their change does not alter Republicans’ majority in either the House or the Senate, nor will it alter the ideological makeup of the legislature.
If anything, Clayton, who runs at about 20% on measures of traditional Republican ideology, and Sykes, who usually polls in single digits, may have to swing somewhat to the right in order to mollify former Republican constituents in their districts if they’re to be re-elected.
So, we have three women, who falsely held themselves out as Republicans in order to win election, who are now being truthful about their true proclivities given the changing realities of Johnson County. One of them has already been defeated by a conservative.
Then we have the trendsetting dinosaur, Bollier. She was an embarrassment to Republicans and will very likely share Melissa Rooker’s fate of not being pure enough for her district’s looney left majority.
Bottom line, plus one for conservatives, fewer embarrassments for Republicans, no other changes ideologically and a kooky political dinosaur continues to stand in the way of true “progressives” in Johnson County’s looney northeast.
Is Johnson County becoming more of a swing county? Yes. But will these four change anything? Not in the foreseeable future.
However, over time, the area has been moving increasingly into the Democrat column, owing to Wyandotte County Democrats moving south into eastern Johnson County and an influx of younger and more liberal professionals pushing local politicians further to the left.
–John Altevogt is a contributing political editor for Metrovoicenews.com