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Kansas: Democratic party focuses on bringing in moderate Republicans


The Democrats recently held their convention in Topeka.  Their strategy to win the governor’s race and a few House seats is simple:  Convince moderate Republicans dissatisfied with the conservative wing of the GOP that they have a place underneath the Democratic Party’s big tent said a recent article in The Wichita Eagle.

Party vice chairman Lee Kinch welcomed attendees to lunch with, “Good morning, fellow Democrats.  And good morning thoughtful, moderate Republicans.”

More than 300 people attended.  Most were Democrats, but there were a few Republicans, like Fred Gatlin.  Gatlin, formerly represented Atwood in the Legislature.  He left office in 1996, and was considered a conservative.  Now, he feels disconnected from his party.

“My values are probably closer to here than they are to the Republican Party right now,” Gatlin said.

Gatlin is the co-chair of  Republicans for Davis.  He said that cuts made to state agencies during the first three years of Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration have left agencies in crisis.  He also worries about the state’s capability to pay its bills in the future under its current tax plan.

Melvin Kahn is a Democrat and political science professor from Wichita State University.  He attended the convention.  He says most voters in the United States are politically moderate, and when the political pendulum swings as far as it did in Kansas in 2012, it tends to swing back.

“I think that’s what’s happening now. We’ve gone so darn far to the right, a lot of people, Republicans themselves, realize it’s just extremism run rampant,” Kahn said.

Dakota Loomis is a spokesman for the Kansas Democratic Party.  He says moderate Republicans share the same focus and values as most Democrats in the state.  He says the party’s focus is on whether kids have good schools and their parents have good jobs.

 “Moderate Republicans and Kansas Democrats, really, there’s about a hair-width of difference. It’s just the moderate Republicans haven’t figured out they’re Democrats in Kansas,” Loomis said.