After losing a hard-fought primary election campaign, state Sen. Jean Schodorf said Saturday that she is leaving the Republican Party.
“My family has been Republican since Lincoln – since the party started,” she said. “My parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents were all Republicans. But it’s changed. There’s no room for people who actually think in moderation.”
Schodorf said she plans to change her voter registration in the near future and become a Democrat or an independent.
“I just haven’t decided which,” she said.
Schodorf was one of several moderate Republican senators who were targeted this year by conservative political action groups backing Gov. Sam Brownback.
During Schodorf’s campaign, she was portrayed in one mailer as a "taxing queen.” Her opponent, Wichita City Council member Michael O’Donnell, 27, was portrayed in a mailing as "Mikey" the baby.
Schodorf said she was disheartened by the sometimes negative nature of the campaign.
“I kept thinking, ‘We’re in the same party. Why are we crucifying ourselves?’” she said.
Schodorf, who was first elected to represent Wichita’s 25th Senate district in 2000, said she never before had faced a primary election challenger.
Terese Johnson, the Sedgwick County Democratic Party chairwoman, said she hopes Schodorf becomes a Democrat.
“We would welcome Jean with open arms,” she said. “I think Jean would be an asset to any party. It will be a great loss to the GOP.”
Although she said she knows of no other elected Republicans who have left their party, Johnson said, “from what I understand, there are many moderate-thinking Republicans who think they are no longer welcome in their party.”
Bob Dool, chairman of the county Republican Party, said he had heard rumors that Schodorf was leaving the party, but he said she hasn’t contacted party officials about her plans. Dool said moderates are always welcome in the party.
“We have Libertarians, we have Tea Party people, and we have moderates,” he said. “We don’t exclude anybody.”
Schodorf, who is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said she plans to remain politically active and work for education and other causes she thinks are important. She said she is looking into the possibility of starting a blog that she would use to keep the voice of moderate Kansans alive.