4th Kansas Republican lawmaker announces switch to Democratic Party

photo by: AP Photo/Nicholas Clayton

In this AP file photo from May 30, 2015, Kansas state Reps. Stephanie Clayton, left, R-Overland Park, and Don Hineman, right, R-Dighton, talk at the Statehouse in Topeka.

Updated 11:30 a.m. Wednesday

TOPEKA — Two moderate Kansas Republican legislators switched to the Democratic Party on Wednesday, joining two other suburban Kansas City lawmakers who made the switch last week.

State Sen. Dinah Sykes, of Lenexa, and state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park, both said they believed they could be more effective legislators as Democrats. All of the lawmakers switching parties are from Johnson County, which is the state’s most populous county and which Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly carried in last month’s election.

Despite the defections, the Republicans will maintain supermajorities in both legislative chambers, with their majorities slipping to 84-41 in the House and 28-11, with one independent, in the Senate.

Sykes was elected to the Senate in 2016, defeating a conservative incumbent in the GOP primary. She said her district is “moderate and pragmatic.”

“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,” she said in a statement.

Clayton was first elected to the House in 2010 and has been a vocal advocate for government transparency and an organizer of a bipartisan Women’s Caucus. She said she believes she can best support public schools as a Democrat.

“I hope to be able to continue to serve as a bridge between parties, helping our Legislature and state find common-sense, bipartisan solutions to the issues we face,” she said in a statement.

Sen. Barbara Bollier, of Mission Hills, and departing Rep. Joy Koesten of Leawood switched to the Democratic Party last week.

Clayton won re-election this year, but Koesten lost her GOP primary and leaves office in January. Bollier and Sykes are serving four-year terms that run through 2020.


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