Back in the Game

A little bit of burn out and a long weekend have left this site a little thin lately. Now, once again fueled by gas station coffee and donuts, I rejoin the fight.

First bit of interesting news of the day:

Former GOP Chairman Parkinson switches affiliation to Democrat

TOPEKA, Kan. - Former Kansas Republican Party Chairman Mark Parkinson switched his party affiliation to Democrat on Tuesday, fueling speculation that he will be named Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' running mate.

Parkinson came into the Johnson County election office shortly before noon Tuesday and switched parties, said Brian Newby, the county election commissioner. Newby said Parkinson did not say why he was switching parties. But his name has been widely circulated as Sebelius' choice to run for lieutenant governor after she announced Friday she was seeking a second term without a running mate in tow.
My understanding is that the Kansas Republican party is split between its more moderate elements and the batshit crazy 'wingers. Switching parties isn't entirely unheard of.
Also among prominent Kansas Republicans who have switched parties is Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, who switched to challenge conservative Republican Attorney General Phill Kline in the November general election. Parkinson is co-chairman of Morrison's campaign.

A former House member also recently switched from Republican to Democrat to challenge the woman who beat her in 2004. Cindy Neighbor of Shawnee filed for office as a Democrat and faces Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook in a rematch in November.

Besides serving as GOP chairman from 1999-2003, Parkinson served in the House from 1991-92 and the Senate from 1993-97.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, has known Parkinson since he was a teenager and served with him in the Legislature. He said Parkinson is qualified to be lieutenant governor and that his party switch was significant.

"My guess is that he's been thinking about this for a long time, that this isn't a fly-by-night decision to change parties," Hensley said. "It's not a case of them leaving the party, they feel the party as left them for a long time. This is not an isolated deal."
In many ways, this is a good thing. It weakens the GOP, both in terms of lost experienced campaigners and in a psychological sense. It also makes it plain that the Republican Party is radicalizing.

For state races, especially governor's races, I think this is a wonderful thing. Having Democratic governors is good for the national party. That doesn't mean that there are no drawbacks to attracting GOP defectors.

First, if a politician has defected once, there's no reason that he or she won't do so again. Should the Republican Party return to more 'traditional' positions and platforms, will these new Democrats revert to their original, preferred party affiliation?

Reverting to Republicanism isn't an immediate problem. We can deal with it if we need to in the future. What really concerns me is that while politicians such as Mark Parkinson may have changed the letters after their names from R to D, they haven't necessarily changed their minds about important issues.

Just because Parkinson is now a Democrat doesn't mean he's abandoned his philosophy of government - nor should it. And while I am excited to have a variety of opinions and well reasoned debate within the party, one has to wonder, if Parkinson would be elected to the U.S. House or Senate, would he vote more often with his fellow Democrats or with his old party?

A politician who has realized that the Republican party is leading this nation off a cliff is welcome within the Democratic Party. What we must be careful of is relying on re-badged Republicans to win races for us. Our 'brand' is diluted and we can't rely on a constant stream of defectors to fill the ranks.

That said, welcome, Mark Parkinson, to the right side of history. I hope that you find the Democratic party welcoming and that your campaign is successful.

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