In 2018, state Sen. Barbara Bollier had grown tired of infighting within the Republican Party she had called hers since the beginning of her political career.
Pushed to the side after her decision to reach across the aisle and back her Democratic colleague, Bollier said "it was past time" to reconsider her stance in the party.
What happened next is likely familiar to those who have spent any time following Bollier’s U.S. Senate bid: Along with two other Statehouse colleagues, she changed parties in 2018 to become a Democrat.
Now she’s looking to defeat Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall to be the first member of her new party to be elected to the U.S. Senate in almost 90 years.
Bollier recently sat down with The Topeka Capital-Journal as part of its 2020 election podcast and story series to discuss her campaign. Marshall’s campaign didn’t respond to multiple requests to do a podcast of his own.
While many are jaded by the notion of electing a moderate, Bollier said that she will be an independent voice in Washington, D.C.
"I’m a tough woman," Bollier said. "And if you check my record over the years I’ve voted against party leadership on both sides to do what is right for the people. That’s always how I’ve done things and a lot of people around me get really challenged by that."
Those who have caught Bollier’s television ads will likely know the key tenets of her campaign. As a physician, she has criticized Marshall’s support of the federal pandemic response and has used her medical background to call for expanding health care for Kansans.
She was strident in her criticism of leaders on both sides in Washington, saying more needs to be done to ensure a COVID-19 relief package gets across the finish line, including expanded unemployment benefits and a freeze on evictions.
"If truly these people won’t come together, we will be in a horrific economic crisis," she said. "Everybody that is in economics predicts that, how important it is that we need to get money into our system. I hope and pray they wake up and get money to the people."
Marshall has repeatedly challenged Bollier’s moderate reputation on a host of issues, most notably abortion and gun control.
The latter topic became a major point of contention earlier this month, with Marshall’s campaign circulating a video where Bollier appeared to praise Australia’s strict gun control measures, which included gun buybacks in the wake of a 1996 mass shooting.
Bollier maintained her support of the Second Amendment, both in the video and in the podcast, and noted she grew up hunting with her father.
But that didn’t preclude the need for expanded background checks, something she argued was supported by many gun owners.
"The NRA ... started about safety," Bollier said. "So that should be our focus: How can we have safety and how can we protect against gun violence, which is a public health problem?"
Bollier also toed the line between expressing support for law enforcement, while acknowledging that more needed to be done to support Kansans of color in their interactions with police and the criminal justice system.
"We as white people have failed. We have failed to listen to our Black brothers and sisters to hear them tell us that they have been treated differently by the criminal justice system, by law enforcement, by the courts," she said. "It is a challenge and a huge problem for them."
Defunding the police, she said, wasn’t an option. Instead, she said she would like to see anti-bias training implemented, ensure officers were engaging with the communities they serve and have local governments fund mental health and substance abuse treatment.
"All those things are possible but bottom line is we have to admit there is a problem and move forward to fix it," Bollier said.