Republican lawmaker from Wichita switches to Democratic Party right after being sworn in

Just moments after being sworn into office for another term, a veteran Republican legislator from Wichita switched to the Democratic Party.

State Rep. Dale Swenson said Monday that he changed parties because Democrats are offering more solutions to the country’s problems on the economy and health care.

“I believe that the Democratic Party has a more serious desire to fix some of the problems,” Swenson said shortly after all House members were sworn into office on the first day of the 2009 legislative session.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence welcomed Swenson, saying, “Dale is doing what he feels is best for his district.”

Swenson, who has served in the House for 14 years, said he started talking to Davis last week about switching parties.

While running for re-election in the fall, Swenson said a lot of Republicans in his district said they were voting him and then all Democrats.

Recently, he said he was upset when Republican Party officeholders blamed unions for troubles in the auto industry.

During his career, Swenson often voted with Democrats. He said his votes had nothing to do with partisan politics but were based on what he thought would be best for his constituents.

Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Christian Morgan criticized Swenson.

“I’m sure his constituents appreciate being lied to like this just a few weeks ago when he was running as a Republican, or just a few hours ago, when he was sworn in as a Republican,” Morgan said.

Republicans still hold a significant margin in the House. With Swenson’s move, Republicans have a 76-49 advantage.

House Republican leaders issued a statement, saying, “It is unfortunate that Representative Swenson feels he is no longer in tune with us. While we do not want to lose a Republican seat, we respect the fact that Dale is finally being honest with his constituency.”