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Former Republican state senator talks about conversion to Democratic Party

March 16, 2013


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  • Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita speaks Saturday with members of the Douglas County Democratic Party.

    Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita speaks Saturday with members of the Douglas County Democratic Party.

    As a recent convert to the Democratic Party, former state Sen. Jean Schodorf told Douglas County Democrats on Saturday that the way to get moderate Republicans to switch parties is to talk about public school education in the state of Kansas.

    “Moderates are very aware of that,” said Schodorf who served in the Senate for 12 years before being defeated in the Republican Party primary last August by a candidate who was backed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and benefitted from advertising by Americans for Prosperity.

    Schodorf, of Wichita, said public schools have been hammered in the current legislative session with bills creating mandates without providing funding, and measures aimed at limiting the ability of teachers to participate in the political process.

    “Education is at the forefront of all of this,” said Schodorf, the former chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.

    She said that after moderate Republicans were swept out of power in the Senate, she decided the GOP had gone too far to the right for her, describing the Republican Party as “the party of suppression.”

    Schodorf switched to the Democratic Party and says now the major goal of Democrats should be to defeat Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014.

    She cited a quote from Brownback in a February article by the Wall Street Journal where the governor explained his proposals to cut the income tax as a way to increase economic development and shrink government.

    In that article, Brownback says “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’”

    Schodorf said that quotes shows, “Everything he is working for is for the Republican Party and not the people.”

    Schodorf also cited a comment from Senate President Susan Wagle who defended a bill eliminating teachers’ voluntary paycheck deductions for political purposes, saying that was tax money.

    Schodorf said that money belongs to the teacher to do what she or he wants to do with it.

    “These people think differently than we do and this is why I became a Democrat,” she said.

    Margie Wakefield, chairwoman of the Douglas County Democratic Party, said proposals by Republicans to cut higher education and eliminate a college savings program for low-income families were causing some in the GOP “to question how they can still be Republicans in the state at this time.”

    Democrats are vastly outnumbered by Republicans in Kansas.

    Republicans hold all statewide elected offices, both U.S. Senate seats and all four U.S. House seats, as well as large majorities in the Kansas Legislature.

    As of October, there were more than 780,000 registered Republican voters, nearly 45 percent of the state total; approximately 508,000 unaffiliated voters, for 29 percent; and 440,000 Democrats, which is just over 25 percent.


    Bike_lover 1 year ago

    Everytime I get a fundraising call from the Republicans I remind them that they don't want me.

    I didn't leave the Republican party - they left me. They can go over their mean-spirited "I'm so holy" cliff without me!


    avarom 1 year, 1 month ago

    It's called "coming to your senses". Winston Churchill once said "If you are not liberal when you are 20 you don't have a heart. If you aren't conservative by the time your're 40 you don't have a brain".


    mikekt 1 year, 1 month ago

    Have the right wing re-publicans gotten government out of your life ? ..........HARDLY ! Which university plays which university, the war against women, high school sports, .......and the meddling goes on and on !!!

    Are the right wing re-publicans the law & order folks that they claim to be ? Well, if your idea of law & order is for any certified lunatic or convicted felon to be able to attend a gun show in the State of Kansas that our legislature governs and purchase as many guns and as much ammunition as they can afford, without a single background check, ........then you have your version of law and order ?!.....But they are big into legislating sports ! WOOOOO-HOOOO !!!!

    And how about their tax shifting that favors corporates and rich folks while sticking it to the poor and middle class thru regressive sales taxes, property taxes, doing away with the mortgage deduction as a supposed afterthought that was probably just part of the original plan that they held off on, till those that they really serve, got "their's".

    If you are looking for the real success stories of Kansas look to the Moderate Republicans of Johnson County who built good public infrastructure, public safety, public schools, etc or look to the Democrats of Wyandotte County, who are growing businesses interests in being there, such as Cerner Corp and Google High Speed Internet, etc..

    The trouble with the right wing re-publicans is that they can't keep their lies straight.

    Say one thing. Do another thing. Expect the public to be too brainwashed to notice !


    1 year, 1 month ago

    1Dem: "I can't imagine anyone believing winning an election is all dependent upon the actions of others unless you are referring to political spectators"

    @lol. This from the person who said that, "It is up to the voters and the Koch brothers." Unless you are the voters or the Koch brothers, then you must simply be a political spectator.

    That said, best of luck with your ultra-secret Dem strategy that no one will see coming or be able to copy. I really, really hope it does not include Jean Schordorf droning on the same themes that have been so (not) successful in the recent past. Not because I'm afraid that such themes will suddenly resonate with Kansas voters, but because two parties are truly better than one and the second party in Kansas is slowly strangling itself.


    jwljpm 1 year, 1 month ago

    Senator Schodorf is exactly right. The Republicans in Kansas have historically been a moderately progressive party who were concerned about using the modest resources of our state to promote what counts the most for all of us, a superior education system and policies that promote a strong middle class. Governors Bill Avery, Robert Bennett, Mike Hayden and Bill Graves and our legislative leaders governed from the political center. We were a successful state with very few major budgetary and political conflicts. Since the party's right wing has taken over, Kansas has become Czarist Russia. The legislature has declared a war on the middle class by shifting the tax burden to property tax payers, probably taking away the mortgage deduction, cutting individual per student aid to school districts and cutting aid to the poor and creating a major budget crisis, all for the purpose of achieving the Koch model of governing. What a sorrowful tragedy and horrible thing to do to Kansas. Shame on all of us for allowing it to happen.


    yourworstnightmare 1 year, 1 month ago

    "In that article, Brownback says “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’”

    Schodorf said that quotes shows, “Everything he is working for is for the Republican Party and not the people.”"

    Exactly, Jean. And not just the republican party, but the extreme right wing ideological wing of the party.

    Social engineering and experimentation at its most blatant.


    kippcolorado 1 year, 1 month ago

    It's great to live in Colorado. Kansas is so screwed up by the Kochs and the Tea Party that when it finally dawns on y'all what happened you'll have the worst performing state in the country. Think Mississippi. And this thread of posts is simply hysterical, all the puffed-up Teabaggers spouting off like they think they know what governing effectively means. The rest of the country is laughing at you. Industries won't be moving jobs to Kansas because of how painfully ignorant and uneducated most of its residents are and will be. I worked for a Republican Kansas Governor, and cooperated with John Carlin's staff to work cooperatively and move Kansas forward. That was a proud time for your state (1970's). Now I won't even visit there. BTW, Bill Self ain't that good a coach either. Can't relate to his players. They don't like the guy. Great recruiter though. Just sayin'. It's great to live in Colorado. Don't plan to move here, you won't be welcome. In fact, why don't you all vacation in Branson from now on?


    George Lippencott 1 year, 1 month ago

    Is this really a case where a dedicated Republican converted to the Democratic Party as a matter of principle? Have the principles of the Republican Party in Kansas really changed that much or do we have Democrats arguing for political leverage?

    Could this be a case where one of the numbers of individuals holding what amounts to the principles of the Democratic Party registered as a Republican so as to increase their opportunity for election in a heavily conservative state? Is the Republican Party not acting appropriately in challenging those who carry its banner but do not agree with its platform?

    Will the LJW now run an article by the individual that defeated this woman in the primary in her restructured district so we might hear the other side of the story??


    1 year, 1 month ago

    "I have not heard anyone mention "purging" but I may have missed that."

    Strange. It was in all the papers.

    Slate's take on it ("The Great Kansas Republican Purge of 2012") is most interesting because it featured a money breakdown of Schodorf's own primary race. It also followed the same theme Dems and mods continue to fall back on to explain their losses: the mean old Chamber made the race fair.

    "Schordof outraised O'Donnell, $115,000 to $72,000, but the Kansas Chamber PAC spent $36,000 to help the challenger, more than eight times as much as a teacher's union spent to help Schordof. So O'Donnell won, and won easy -- 2,745 votes to 1,897 votes, in a district that's home to around 70,000 people."

    Schodorf herself raised more money than O'Donnell, even after the Chamber kicked in $36k. But note the "so" - like many other math-challenged pundits, Slate blames the marginal PAC money that helped challengers while ignoring the fact that the moderate incumbents still outspent those challengers. It was not PAC money that made the difference - it's that what Schodorf was selling was not being bought once the voters heard from an alternative.

    So now is your chance to be the new alternative. I suspect, however, that if the Dems try to be the alternative by recycling old Republicans, they will have only marginally more luck than the Libertarians have had in the last 2 elections following that strategy. But that is not my doing. I only foretell.


    centrist1 1 year, 1 month ago

    Ok midwest_muser if we get another term of the Brownieback we will be seriously bankrupt and the heaviest burden will be on the poor and the middle class.


    chootspa 1 year, 1 month ago

    Posters might want to try Google before declaring that someone who has a career job outside of politics should go get one.


    1 year, 1 month ago

    "I know of no one who pays much attention to party affiliation numbers..."

    Really? I do, so I guess now you know one person. So do lots of political pros. But the conservative takeover has been going on in Kansas since at least the mid-1990s in earnest and perhaps earlier, going back to Summer of Mercy even. And in that time - since back when I worked on Joan Finney's campaign (which was also the last time the Dems held the House), the GOP has constantly expanded their reach. The Dems have consistently retreated to their little redoubts in Wyandotte, Douglas, and Crawford counties, complaining the entire time that it was the GOP which was marginalizing themselves.

    Here's a big reason why: Go back and look at your post. Really read it. You'll find a little nitpicking and that Ha-Ha Obama won and the Republicans gerrymander* and suppress votes and have Koch money and all the comforting excuses for losing one can muster. What you'll not find is any admission that the Dems themselves might improve, that their current position might have something to do with their own performance or lack thereof. The absence of self-reflection, both in your post and in the leftern half of this forum generally, is astonishing.

    That is reason #1 why they will most likely continue to lose here. Kansas Democrats are competition sprinters who complain that the other guys run too fast and that the gun is too loud. Actually, if you really want to win, you just need to run faster.

    *Even though it was an internecine gerrymander fight which was thrown out by the courts, giving us today the best, fairest map the state has had since Gerry first mandered a district.


    1Dem 1 year, 1 month ago


    From the figures you provided there has been a 129,434 increase in registered Republicans, a 156,508 increase of those registered unaffiliated and an incease of 16,404 registered Democrats. Kansas historically has been Republican and Kansas is considered a safe red state. Republicans far out number Democrats in this state. There are no statewide elected Democrats and the number of Democrats in the legislature are small. It remains to be seen if Kansas voters decide they prefer a one party system in Kansas.

    That being said there has been a right wing takeover of the Kansas Republican Party and the legislature. The GOP moderates are no longer in charge. I have not heard any squealing yet, but sure might if hundreds of thousands of pigs are moved into Western Kansas. Don't be surprised when that happens. I have not heard anyone mention "purging" but I may have missed that. I will let those who claim to have been "purged" speak for themselves. It would not surprise me a bit if the defeat of the moderate Republican Senators appear to some to be a purge of Republican incumbents.

    How someone is registered to vote does not dictate how they vote. We have had Democratic Governors of Kansas, a few statewide Democratic officals, but rarely a majority in the Kansas House. You may think Republicans own political offices but that is not true. You may think it is a monopoly game, a money grab, and a power grab, but Republicans do not own political office. They are only temporary holders of elected office and the voters decide each time there term is up.

    If you are right wing nut with the Koch money backing you I'd say your strategy of taking over the Kansas Republican Party has worked without firing a shot. I do know Republicans who have changed their affiliation but I know of no one who pays much attention to party affiliation numbers. Afterall, we still have a secret ballot.

    I wonder why a party so dominates would need to stoop to gerrymandering and voter suppression. Oh, and before I forget FOUR MORE YEARS. Mitt nor the Republican party own the White House do they? It is not for sale.


    jhawkinsf 1 year, 1 month ago

    This politician ought to go back to her home district and get a job, any job, that actually produces some type of goods or services. All politicians ought to do that as their primary source of income. When we moved away from the notion of citizen politicians in favor of lifetime politicians, the country has suffered.


    jayhawklawrence 1 year, 1 month ago

    I voted for Reagan, Bush, Bush II.

    Since then I voted for OBAMA 1&2.

    The current right wing takeover of America is disturbing to me. These people care nothing about average Americans.

    I believe that even Reagan would be disgusted with the current Republican Party.


    1 year, 1 month ago

    "As of October, there were more than 780,000 registered Republican voters...approximately 508,000 unaffiliated voters...and 440,000 Democrats, which is just over 25 percent."

    In 1996, there were 650,566 Republicans, 351,492 unaffiliated, and 423,595 Democrats:

    So despite all the squealing about the "right wing takeover" and "purging" of the party, the actual result of the last 15 years has been the addition of about 17,000 voters into the Democratic party and 8 times that many into the GOP. That is reflected in the fact that the Republicans own every statewide office, every congressional seat, both senate seats, and 3/4 of both houses in Topeka.

    Someone needs a new strategy, and it's not the GOP.


    Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 1 year, 1 month ago

    When will we learn not to shove every loser who can no longer get elected as a Republican into a top spot in the Democratic Party?

    Remember the Great Tattoo and some of the other slimeballs Sebelius embraced? They were nothing but an embarrassment. Schodorf, Owens Vratil, Brungardt and many of these other losers weren't run out of their party because of ideology . And you can ask any real Democratic party legislator just what I mean.

    If they want to become Democrats, fine, let them stuff envelopes and distribute signs, but we don't need their advice, or their "leadership" over people who have always been faithful Democrats.


    jhawk1998 1 year, 1 month ago

    I clicked on this link thinking I was going to learn about a politician that switched parties because of a philosophical difference. What I found was another article about a politician switching parties after losing a primary election in her former party. This is not news and not very enlightening.


    1 year, 1 month ago

    "Schodorf switched to the Democratic Party and says now the major goal of Democrats should be to defeat Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014."

    That's the kind of political insight that will surely turn the state as blue as the Kansas sky, no? And to think, all this time the Democrats thought their major goal should be to get into the Guinness Book of Records for creating the world's biggest flapjack.


    bearded_gnome 1 year, 1 month ago

    who served in the Senate for 12 years before being defeated in the Republican Party primary last August by a candidate who was backed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and benefitted from advertising by Americans for Prosperity.

    ---how very convenient! she switches after being defeated. translation: no core values at all. glad she's in the demorat party where she really belongs.


    IKU57 1 year, 1 month ago

    A Republican switching to democracy? What method of governing did she use before?


    question4u 1 year, 1 month ago

    Is it really the case, as several here suggest, that only Democrats care about education in the state of Kansas? Clearly the kind of Republicans who now make up the majority in the legislature have shown themselves to be willing tools of the Chamber of Commerce in its campaign to undermine public education. But is is really the case that every moderate Republican who saw the destruction of schools as inimical to the future of the state and therefore ended up on the Chamber of Commerce's hit list in the last elections was actually a Democrat in disguise?

    It doesn't sound like anything to be proud of, but clearly there are some posting here who seem to think that you're not a "true" Republican unless you want to drive education into the ground.

    Well, OK. Point taken. If you want to be seen as a legitimate Republican in this legislature you have to show disdain for education. How great for Kansas!


    situveux1 1 year, 1 month ago

    Weird article... Jean became a Democrat well before she was elected to the Senate.


    avarom 1 year, 1 month ago

    Lawrence Kansas.....State Rep. Wilson's Boo-Boo cost us money...$$$$$$.....way too many grays......... that can't Read or Write. Unbelieveable!


    midwest_muser 1 year, 1 month ago

    "Democrats are vastly outnumbered by Republicans in Kansas."
    Isn't it funny how that's the case in virtually every state that isn't bankrupt?


    wastewatcher 1 year, 1 month ago

    LIBERAL SHODORF is where she belongs, with the LIBERALS of LAWERENCE. She was acting as a proud republican, served in a leadership role, and campaigned as a Republican, but was a phoney because she is and always will be a LIBERAL. She and her kind, LIBERALS, got us into this mess.. Remember she was and probably is still on the payroll of Wichita Schools..


    voevoda 1 year, 1 month ago

    Jean Schodorf did a courageous thing, speaking truth to the powers behind the ultra-right-wing that has usurped control of the Republican Party. Maybe all the other remaining rational Republicans will follow her example.


    smileydog 1 year, 1 month ago

    She was a double agent like most liberal republicans, infiltrating the republican party to get elected until exposed like the rest of the liberal republicans. It's too bad she still isn't being honest by calling herself a moderate.


    BigDog 1 year, 1 month ago

    Boston Corbett ..... And John F. Kenndey nor Robert Kennedy would be accpeted in today's Democratic Party .... Their politics were nothing like Ted "I'll have another" Kennedy.

    Jean changed her stripes too .... the year she decided to run for Congress she was opposed to any tax or spending increase. Once she lost her primary, then next session she was back to supporting spending and tax increases.


    Boston_Corbett 1 year, 1 month ago

    It is wildly ironic that someone using the handle "I Like Ike" is being critical here of Schodorf.

    Ike would decidedly not be accepted by the "current" Republican Party (presumably including "I Like Ike"). Nor would Dole, Kasselbaum, Goldwater, or Reagan...........


    Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 1 month ago

    The GOP has gone extremely ROGUE!!


    Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 1 month ago

    The Chamber of Commerces in this state, and local, are so mafia-like and evil, it isn't even funny. I would never ever join them. They are NOT concerned about people or their businesses.


    Brock Masters 1 year, 1 month ago

    Reminds me of're fired!!! You can't fire me, I quit!

    Pretty pathetic. Just accept your loss and move on.


    I_Like_Ike 1 year, 1 month ago

    Good riddance ...say hello to Paul (Benedict) Morrison.


    toe 1 year, 1 month ago

    A worthless politician that will do anything to be on stage. Her politics were wrong for Wichita and they are wrong for Kansas. But, she could try recruiting Preager.


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