Kansas Republicans, prepare yourselves for a ‘come to Jesus’ election

August 21, 2020 7:00 am

Former Kansas Rep. Tom Moxley appears in an ad for U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier. (Screenshot)

As far as existential questions for Kansas Republicans, the one presented to them by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier is not new. It’s just more consequential.

“We have a real, for lack of a better way to put it” — Tom Moxley, a Republican from Council Grove, pauses to make sure this is how he’s going to say it — “we’re gonna have a come-to-Jesus meeting in the general election nationally.”

Moxley, who served in the Kansas Legislature for 10 years until 2017, proclaims his support for Bollier in an ad released on the day after the Aug. 4 primary.

We can expect a lot more Republicans to come out in the days and weeks ahead.

“I’m also endorsing Barbara,” says Steve Morris, a Republican from Hugoton who spent 20 years in the Kansas Senate, including eight years as the chamber’s president until he left in 2012.

“I was able to observe her skill set and talents,” Morris says. “I think we have an opportunity to send someone who’s more highly qualified than we normally have.”

To recap: Bollier was a Republican when she won a Kansas House seat in 2010 and when she won a Kansas Senate seat in 2016. Punished by GOP leaders for supporting Democrats and citing long-simmering frustrations with her party, Bollier switched her affiliation at the end of 2018 and is now Kansas Democrats’ best hope for winning a U.S. Senate seat since Amelia Earhart flew all by herself across the Atlantic ocean.

A Bollier victory might also signal a chance for “traditional Republicans,” as Moxley describes himself, to begin pulling their party out of the snake-filled ditch they’ve driven themselves into.

“I think the Republican Party has lost its mind,” Moxley says.

Give him longer than a 30-second political ad and you’ll get an earful, albeit in a calm voice sanded down by Flint Hills ranch dust.

“The party has abandoned its principles — I’m gonna say they’re bedrock principles,” he says, and proceeds with a litany.

“We always knew and found Russia to be not trustworthy, knew they liked to meddle in the world. We’ve abandoned that as the Republican Party,” he says.

“We always had a strong sense that trade with foreign countries was our future. We’ve abandoned that in many cases,” he says.

“The Republican Party was very much pro legal immigration. Currently, and with the Republican Senate’s particular blessing, we’re anti-immigration, even of highly qualified, much sought-after people, now,” he says.

“We were a party that believed that personal responsibility was important and you took responsibility for your actions. Now the Republican Party usually blames someone else — this season it’s the Democrats — for their inaction. For example, on health care. The Republican Party promised that they would come up with a better health plan. Have they done that? They have not even tried,” he says.

“The Republican Party used to believe that character in our leaders mattered. You don’t hear them talk about character at all, unless there’s a Democrat in the White House,” he says.

There’s more.

“We used to think the Republican Party was the party of fiscal responsibility. Now they are more than happy to pass major tax reductions for some of us that are very comfortable, and unbalance the budget by not a little bit but by a trillion dollars a year,” he says.

Don’t get him wrong. The Democratic Party is not much different, he emphasizes. Both parties are ruled by the fringes, he says.

“So left to my devices I need to support candidates who will have the experience of being independent, thoughtful, and will do the right thing,” he says.

When he and Bollier were both Republicans back in the Legislature, he says, “we didn’t have this grand agenda in front of us that is ‘no tax.’ ” Abortion was important, he says, “but it wasn’t the issue. We were more into balancing budgets.”

Nationally, it’s been a big week for Republicans endorsing Democrats. In Kansas, that was already a tradition.

In 2014, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis found 100 Republicans to support his challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback (Davis lost by 32,000 votes). Davis tried the tactic again in 2018, touting three dozen Republicans who backed his run for Congress in the 2nd District, which he narrowly lost to now-alleged felonious-voter-fraudster and soon-to-be-former U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins.

Then-Kansas Sen. Laura Kelly also found Republicans to declare their support for her instead of Kris Kobach (among others) in the 2018 governor’s race.

But Republican primary voters did not make the same Kobach mistake twice. So now Bollier’s running where lots of people vote Republican because their parents and grandparents voted Republican and voting for a Democrat would be like drinking Roundup.

Maybe they could try to think of it as more like drinking wine. With Jesus.

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C.J. Janovy
C.J. Janovy

C.J. Janovy is a veteran journalist with deep roots in the Midwest. She was the Opinion Editor for the Kansas Reflector from launch unit l June 2021. Before joining the Reflector, she was an editor and reporter at Kansas City’s NPR affiliate, KCUR. Before that, she edited the city’s alt-weekly newspaper, The Pitch, where Janovy and her writers won numerous local, regional and national awards. Her book “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas” was among the Kansas Notable Books of 2019.