Archive for Friday, December 17, 2010

Statehouse Live: Democratic Kansas state senator switching to Republican Party

December 17, 2010, 11:37 a.m. Updated December 17, 2010, 4:49 p.m.


— State Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City, Kan., on Friday left the Democratic Party to join Republicans, saying his fiscal beliefs were more in line with the GOP and that he could better serve his district by teaming up with the majority party.

“Most people tell me they want me to do what is best for the community, not a political party. By joining the Republican majority in the State Capitol, I am better able to deliver value and service to the people of Wyandotte County. Our voice in Topeka is stronger by being in the majority,” Steineger said.

The decision gives Republicans a 32-8 advantage over Democrats in the Senate.

Democrats said they were glad to see Steineger leave but disagreed with his logic.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said Steineger had turned his back on voters in his district, which is one of the highest voting Democratic districts in the state, giving President Barack Obama 64 percent of the vote in 2008 and former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius 75 percent support in 2006.

And Hensley said Steineger’s father — Jack Steineger, who was Senate Democratic leader for 12 years — was an example of a legislator from the minority party who could get things done.

“Jack Steineger’s legacy proves that you don’t have to be a member of the majority party to effectively serve the people of Kansas,” Hensley said.

But Chris Steineger said his political philosophy moved him closer to Republicans.

“I am a fiscal hawk who believes Americans have been borrowing, spending and living beyond their means for too long,” Steineger said.

“My views on taxing, borrowing and spending, and on the size and role of government in our society, have changed over the years and today more closely align with the Republican Party,” he said.

Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates said Steineger’s values and those of the Democrats were no longer the same

“In recent years, it has become abundantly clear that his views, and his votes in the Legislature, do not represent those values associated with Kansas Democrats — values such as supporting a strong public education, ensuring an adequate safety net for those in need and working toward a brighter economic future for our state,” Gates said.

During the last legislative session, Steineger was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote against the 1-cent increase in the state sales tax rate. Supporters of the increase said it was needed to avoid damaging cuts to education, social services and public safety.

In 2007, Steineger introduced a bill to sell Kansas University Hospital and use the proceeds to pay for repairs at regents universities and help the state pension system. The measure didn’t gain much support.

He has also introduced legislation in the past to reduce the number of counties in Kansas from 105 to 13, and has been a frequent critic of the escalating costs of the Capitol renovation project.

Steineger was an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic Party primary in August for secretary of state. The primary was won by Secretary of State Chris Biggs, who was then defeated in the general election by Republican Kris Kobach.

Steineger was first elected to the state Senate in 1996.

With the change, Steineger will be able to participate in the Senate Republican caucus meeting on Monday, in which the caucus will elect a majority leader to replace Attorney Gen.-elect Derek Schmidt. Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, appears to be the only candidate for majority leader.

Steineger said he intends to run for re-election in 2012 as a Republican.


WilburM 4 years, 11 months ago

Watch his vote on the Majority Leader.

And what's with the McCain reference? He didn't switch parties.

4 years, 11 months ago

More like Arlen Specter - except that Specter switched parties before the election to avoid a primary he was certain to lose. Steineger is a little different, and he's going to have a tough row to hoe in two years. Not a whole lot of GOP support there in Wyandotte. Though overall I wonder if it will really matter, with a 32-8 majority, all the meaningful action in intra-party GOP squabble, and Steineger will still be in the leftern half.

4 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, but they're coming to your ship, I expect.

4 years, 11 months ago

Well, that's just the point, if the other guys are rats, having them in your big tent just gives you a big tent full of rats. Unless somehow they are magically transformed to some more appealing type of rodent upon entry.

thatonedude 4 years, 11 months ago

You know, the last time "your ship" was this strong, it had high taxes, big government, a squandered surplus, and a military constantly criticized for how its soldiers weren't properly protected, right?

meggers 4 years, 11 months ago

"Most people tell me they want me to do what is best for the community, not a political party. By joining the Republican majority in the State Capitol, I am better able to deliver value and service to the people of Wyandotte County. Our voice in Topeka is stronger by being in the majority," said Steineger.

That's code for "if I vote with the republican majority, they'll reward me with committee assignments and legislative earmarks".

BigDog 4 years, 11 months ago

Steineger has always been more conservative than the Democratic leadership under the dome. They proclaim to be open to varying opinions within the party unless you disagree with them. He has not been welcome in the Democratic Party for years.

Bob_Keeshan 4 years, 11 months ago

According to Steineger, that is.

The #1 person who didn't welcome Steineger in the Dem Party was Steineger. For several years, he has decided it worked better for him to play the role of victim.

It is hilarious people refer to Steineger as "conservative". Check his record, and check the issues he has been passionate about. Last I checked, expanded gambling in Kansas wasn't exactly a conservative issue.

BigDog 4 years, 11 months ago

If you say so .... I have spent a lot of time around the Capitol and bars of Topeka with politicians of all political stripes over the last 15 years and would have to say Steineger has brought some on himself but not a majority of it.... I won't name names but several Ds in leadership around the Capitol have never liked Steineger because of his political views and part of it goes back to his family and him being "a rich boy" and trash him regularly after a few drinks

thatonedude 4 years, 11 months ago

He hasn't been welcome because he has never been interested in working with the rest of the Party, and in person he's utterly insufferable (yes, I've had the displeasure of meeting him on a few occasions).

Hudson Luce 4 years, 11 months ago

Frankly, in Kansas, it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Democratic Party to continue to exist. There's never been a Democratic majority in the Legislature for as far back as I can remember, and if the Democratic Party would dissolve tomorrow, nothing would change, what we'd end up with is a one-party system with a conservative faction and a moderate faction and a liberal faction, rather than the charade that exists now. It would save lots of money and trouble on general elections, and it would reflect the way Kansas is really governed.

A long time ago, I worked for Jack Steineger as a legislative assistant in my senior year in high school, and I can tell you that during the legislative session there were as many Republicans meeting in his office as Democrats; party labels were put away after the election, and business got done, and his district came out quite well, and so did his good friend, Senator Ed Reilly, Republican from Leavenworth. Senator Steineger was a conservative Democrat and could have been a Republican easily had he not come from Wyandotte County.

Bob_Keeshan 4 years, 11 months ago

How interesting you can't remember the Democratic majority in the Legislature in 1976 and 1990 yet you claim to have worked for Jack Steineger...

PalinPalms 4 years, 11 months ago

Welcome...... come closer.....yessssss........ closer closer......... that's good.


ronwell_dobbs 4 years, 11 months ago

stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plum...

You know, it's good to have the Republicans with such an overwhelming advantage in Kansas because it will truly be "put up or shut up" time. No possible claims of obstructionism when they finally hurl us all off the cliff.

olddognewtrix 4 years, 11 months ago

Wyandotte County will crucify Steineger for his political sheanaigan

Bob_Keeshan 4 years, 11 months ago

Gee, lucky for Steineger you'll never hear any Republicans bashing him. I'm sure they will all leap to his defense and quickly adopt all of his ideas.

Yes, ole Chris Steineger is going find his "conservative" philosophies are roundly adopted by the Senate Republicans. Also, he plans on commuting to Topeka during the session on his flying pig.

Chris Steineger's only problem with the Democratic Party is that nobody wanted him to lead it. I'm sure he'll find plenty of Republicans who line up behind him now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 11 months ago

Steineger is just positioning himself life after the next election-- one he was likely to lose, anyway. Maybe Brownback, or the Koch brothers, will have a position open for him.

ivalueamerica 4 years, 11 months ago

I have been very consistent with my philosophy on this matter.

If an elected official wishes to switch parties, then he or she should resign and run in a special election or do it during the regular election cycle, otherwise he or she is frauding the voters because voting for someone in a party often allies with supporting ideals of the party,not only the ideas of the candidate.

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

That's a very good point.

I completely agree.

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