Former Republican tells local Dems of frustration with Brownback, Kobach

By Bill Felber

A Republican-turned-Democrat with ambitious plans told a group of Riley County Democrats Tuesday night that she left the GOP because “my principles couldn’t let me be a Republican any more.”

Former State Sen. Jean Schodorf, whose stated goal is to oust Secretary of State Kris Kobach in November of 2014, all but formally declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for that office — saying the party has “a great opportunity to re-take the governorship and also the secretary of state.”

About 60 party members gathered in City Park to hear remarks by Schodorf, Shawnee County District Atty. Chad Taylor and local office holders along with potential 2014 nominees.

The event was billed as a “back to school” rally.

Schodorf became a Democrat in January, a few months after being defeated in her bid for re-nomination by a more conservative Republican who went on to win election.

She said at the Tuesday event that the key to victory in 2014 was getting Democrats and independents to unite in their anger against Brownback administration policies — which she said have severely damaged the state’s fiscal and social situations.

She told attendees she had recently been at the state fair in Hutchinson, where she worked a Democratic Party booth.

“People are not happy with Gov. (Sam) Brownback, she said. But Schodorf added: “When they see a picture of Kobach, they say, ‘We’ve got to get rid of that guy.’

“I hope to have a little bit to do with that,” she added. “I’m going to put my money where my mouth is.”

Schodorf said her chief complaint with Kobach is his advocacy of laws the secretary has described as improving the security of the voting process. Schodorf sees them as efforts to disenfranchise likely voters, noting that “16,000 peoples’ votes … are in suspense” because they have not provided the required documentation of their eligibility to vote.

She termed the new state law demanding documentation unconstitutional.

District Atty. Taylor, one of the leading advocates of the legislature’s recent actions changing the state’s “hard 50” sentencing law to conform to a U.S. Supreme Court judgment, preceded Schodorf to the microphone and applauded the results of the special session.

The point, Taylor said, was to ensure “that generations would truly pass” before persons sentenced under the law would be eligible for release.

He acknowledged some debate as to whether the new law would be applicable retroactively; that is, applicable to cases that have already been adjudicated. But Taylor said the special session overall represented “some of the best money we’ve ever spent in the state of Kansas.”

That led to the evening’s lone awkward moment, when Schodorf — who arrived as Taylor was speaking and did not get much of a chance to hear him — described the session during her own remarks as “a ruse to get (Appeals Court Judge Caleb Stegall) approved before there was too much scrutiny.”

She acknowledeged the value of amending the “hard 50” law, but added: “We don’t know if it’s constitutional.”

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