Veteran moderate Republican State Sen. Jean Schodorf has announced she is leaving the GOP after being targeted this year by conservative groups who back Gov. Sam Brownback and losing to a conservative in the primary.
The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/OezDiI) reported that Schodorf, the chairwoman of the Kansas Senate Education Committee, said Saturday she plans to change her voter registration in the near future and become a Democrat or an independent.
"My family has been Republican since Lincoln - since the party started," said Schodorf, who was defeated last month by Wichita City Council member Michael O'Donnell. "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 has held the seat since 2001 and served 12 years on the Wichita school board. But O'Donnell had the backing of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and benefited from independent advertising by the anti-tax, small-government group Americans for Prosperity.
Schodorf was called a "taxing queen" in one campaign mailer, while her 27-year-old challenger was portrayed in a mailing as "Mikey" the baby.
"I kept thinking, `We're in the same party. Why are we crucifying ourselves?' " said Schodorf, who is looking into starting a blog aimed at moderate Kansans.
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 the party welcomes moderates.
"We have Libertarians, we have tea party people, and we have moderates," he said. "We don't exclude anybody."