Kansas Sen. Barbara Bollier indicated Wednesday she was ready to leave the Republican party and vowed not to be swayed from taking a stance in support of Democrats.
Her endorsement of Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly in the governor’s race and Tom Niermann, one of six Democrats hoping to unseat U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder in the 3rd District, cost Bollier a committee leadership position and prompted cries of betrayal from GOP leaders.
Bollier, of Mission Hills, said conservatives sent her a clear message they don’t want her in the party anymore.
“Whether that means forever remaining a Republican, that remains to be determined,” Bollier said.
She said one possibility was joining the fledgling Party of the Center, or she could become an independent. She wasn’t sure when she would make a decision.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and Senate Minority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, condemned Bollier’s endorsements of Democrats. Wagle said the embarrassment gave her no choice but to remove Bollier as vice chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
“While we respect differing opinions in our caucus, it is unacceptable to betray members of your own party by publicly endorsing leftist Democrats,” Wagle said. “Sen. Bollier has lost credibility within our caucus, which makes it impossible for her to function in a leadership role.”
If that is the attitude of fellow Republicans, Bollier said, it is sad. The attitude speaks to the emergence of new parties that seek to find middle ground, she said.
“I think people are crying out for it, quite frankly,” Bollier said.
Bollier also said she will take a stance for whatever is best for Kansas and that she isn’t the first Republican in history to support a Democrat. She is a retired physician, and Yoder lost her support by opposing the Affordable Care Act. Many Republicans haven’t voted for Yoder in the past, she said, and won’t this time.
Niermann said he was proud to have the endorsement of a senator who has fought for health care and schools while standing up to the NRA.
“She was removed from her leadership positions today for speaking truth to power,” Niermann said. “Her removal is an example of politics as usual. Her countless acts of political courage are an example of politics as they should be.”
For Denning, Bollier’s stance “is a profound and personal disappointment.”
“As majority leader of the Kansas Senate, I look forward to continuing an environment where ideas are debated, and the caucus reflects Kansas values and the will of the voters who elected the Republican membership,” Denning said.
Bollier served in the House from 2010 to 2016 before winning election to her Senate seat.