By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
After serving Kansas as a Republican for 12 years and losing her Senate seat in the 2012 primary, Jean Schodorf wants to return to Topeka as a Democrat.
The former 25th District's state senator visited Hays last week to meet community members and rally support for a bid at secretary of state. Schodorf, a speech pathologist in Wichita, said she wants to restore "integrity" to the office of secretary of state.
Kris Kobach, the current secretary, has "neglected" his duties because he has been immersed in nationwide legal battles about voter registration laws, she said.
"I found it very offensive in February when the present secretary was in Wichita representing Arizona in a Kansas courtroom," Schodorf said.
Kobach's "moonlighting" has allowed a lapse in business registration, and organizations statewide have reported glitches in the process, she said. Schodorf wants to streamline operations.
"We will be a pro-business, one-stop shop for Kansas businesses so that they can register to do business, register for the state of Kansas and do business as fast as we can ... and start bringing jobs and making money," she said.
Kobach's efforts to discourage voting bothers her.
"Suppressing voter registration is wrong because it's our basic right," she said. "It's not a privilege; it's our right."
Switching parties has not changed her stance. Schodorf said she was bipartisan and belonged to the coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats voted out during a conservative upswell.
"My basic beliefs are the same," she said. "They have been good education and low taxes, basic services, and right to vote. Freedom."
The news surrounding Kobach reflects poorly on Kansas, she said.
"People are embarrassed ... and I hate that," Schodorf said. "I'm proud of my state. I love my state."
Darrell Hamlin, former Ellis County Democratic chairman, said Schodorf can appeal to a broad range of voters.
"Lots of moderate-oriented Kansans want a secretary of state who will stay in the state and do the job for us instead of running around the country working to change laws in other states," Hamlin said.
Allen Schmidt, the 36th District's state senator from 2011 to 2013, said he served with Schodorf in the Kansas Legislature. He helped organize her visit to the area.
Schodorf's party swap does not have any bearing on the office she seeks, he said.
"I think in a position like secretary of state, it should be nonpartisan," Schmidt said. "She's working for the entire state of Kansas. Doesn't matter whether you're a Libertarian, Democrat, Independent or Republican. You're working for the people of Kansas."
John Pyle, vice chairman of the Ellis County Republican Party, said Schodorf was not re-elected in 2012 because Republicans lost faith in her.
"She's one of the Republicans that lost," Pyle said. "Now what they're doing is going over to the Democratic Party to see if they can capitalize."
Pyle said he approves of Kobach's efforts to verify voter registrations. He said the push to reduce voter fraud has been misrepresented, and it is comparable to the fact there is shoplifting at Walmart and not everyone gets caught.
The general election for secretary of state will be Nov. 4.