If she had her way, Jean Schodorf, a former three-term Republican state senator from Wichita, would still be a member of the Kansas Senate.
Like Manhattan’s Roger Reitz, however, she was purged in the 2012 GOP primary by a conservative coalition that involved Gov. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the state branch of Americans for Prosperity and other groups.
A few months after the primary, Mrs. Schodorf became a Democrat. She explained her party switch last week at a local Democratic rally by saying, “My principles couldn’t let me be a Republican anymore.”
We know and admire plenty of principled Republicans, but we appreciate her concern about the increasingly conservative bent of her former party and the disdain with which it regards thoughtful moderates.
Mrs. Schodorf has done more than become a Democrat, however. She could become one of its champions if she can achieve her stated goal of ousting Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Though she hasn’t formally announced her candidacy, she could be a formidable opponent. For starters, she likely would fare better in a Democratic primary than she did in her last Republican primary. She has good name recognition, knows her way around Kansas politics, and is aware of the formula that any Democrat must master to achieve victory over a Republican.
She told area Democrats last week that the key to victory in the next election would be getting Democrats and independents to unite in their anger at the policies conservative Republicans have pursued — policies that she argued have severely damaged the state’s fiscal situation and social institutions.
We share her concern about Secretary Kobach’s support of a law he says is intended to limit voter fraud — a problem that exists mostly in his imagination — and that has the effect of disenfranchising minority and low-income Kansans whose votes would likely go to Democratic candidates. We also object to Secretary Kobach’s efforts to deny the children of illegal immigrants in Kansas the opportunity to pay in-state tuition to Kansas public institutions of higher education and to his attempts to prevent illegal immigrants from working, even in sectors of the economy such as agriculture whose leaders support the issuance of temporary work passes to meet manpower shortages.
Whether Mrs. Schodorf challenges Secretary Kobach, a savvy politician with plenty of backing, and whether she can generate enough support to defeat him are intriguing questions. But the contest might be a real doozy.