Anti-Gay Dem Makes Big Leap

By John Celock

Kansas’ leading anti-gay Democrat is leaving her party and becoming a Republican after 22 years in the state Legislature.

Rep. Jan Pauls of Hutchison announced Friday that opposition to the Democratic Party’s views on LGBT rights and abortion are leading her to become a Republican. Pauls, who was the longest serving Democrat in the Kansas Legislature, has been known for her strong opposition to both LGBT equality and abortion rights, at times being more in tune with the GOP than her own party.

“I have watched over the years as the party leadership has refused to acknowledge the public rebuke of the political correctness now associated with the Kansas Democrat Party,” Pauls said in a statement released by the Kansas House Republican Caucus. “By giving priority to those who advocate for abortion, the homosexual agenda, and even gun control, the Democrats have lost much public support and lost elected representatives because of their ever more leftist image.”

Pauls said in her statement that she believed family values were being abandoned by the Democratic Party and that labor issues were now tied to “destructive social issues of abortion, LGBT and anti-Second Amendment.” She also said that she believed the party had alienated the Roman Catholic Church.

“Also, when I saw wholesale mocking of the deeply held beliefs of the Catholic Church on abortion and the religious freedom bill, I felt that it was time to go,” Pauls said in the statement.

The Topeka Capitol-Journal reported on Friday that Pauls used her press conference in Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s ceremonial office to blast Kansas Equality Coalition executive director Thomas Witt, a longtime opponent of hers. She said she believed Witt to be running the party at times. She also commented on pitting labor against the LGBT community.

“I might say too, if you’re doing a side bet on a fight between the labor caucus and this other caucus, I’d put my money on the labor guys in any kind of rumble at all,” the Capitol-Journal reported Pauls as saying.

Witt told The Celock Report that he believed Pauls’ statement was another in her lines of attack against the LGBT community.

“That is nothing less than advocating violence against LGBT people. It is appalling and it has no place in American politics,” he said. “If the GOP wants to welcome someone like that in their fold more power to them.”

Witt called Pauls’ jump “an act of desperation” noting that on Thursday he informed her that Brian Davis, a Democrat who is planning to run for Pauls’ seat, was planning to file 280 petition signatures, a large number for the small district, to get on the ballot. Chris Givan has also filed to seek the Democratic nomination in Pauls’ district.

Pauls narrowly won the 2012 Democratic primary against Erich Bishop, the openly gay son of a former Ku Klux Klan member who was backed by the Kansas Equality Coalition. She then defeated Dakota Bass, a pro-choice, pro-gay Republican who has co-chaired a progressive group with ties to the state Democratic Party, in the general election. The bizarre nature of the 2012 race earned the election a plotline on the television series “Newsroom.”

Pauls is being welcomed into her new party and was surrounded by top GOP officials during her press conference according to photos posted on social media. Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold noted in a statement that Pauls’ defection now raises the number of House GOP members to 93, the highest in 60 years. He also attacked House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence), the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee, for liberal policies that drove Pauls from the party.

Members of Pauls’ new legislative caucus are also welcoming her with Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco) telling The Celock Report that Pauls’ move is part of a national trend.

“It is a trend happening across Kansas and the country as the far left Obama Democrats kick Blue Dogs out of the party,” he said. “I have seen it in my district where pro-life Democrats feel the party has left them and no longer wants them. I welcome Representative Pauls and all conservative Democrats to the Republican Party.”

While Democrats have noted in the past that Pauls’ inclusion in the party’s House caucus, including being the party’s top member on the Judiciary and Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committees, is an example of inclusion, one Republican said that her move shows the GOP is a “big tent.”

“Rep. Jan Pauls gave me my first opportunity in public service as her intern in 1997. She was a conservative then, she’s a conservative now,” Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) told The Celock Report. “I’m glad she made the decision to be a part of the Republican Party so she can have more influence on policy for the people she serves. Republican or Democrat, Jan Pauls is a respected public servant and she is welcome under our big tent.”

Pauls now enters a House GOP caucus dominated by conservatives but one that has flexed its muscle in battling Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on education and tax policy. The caucus also includes several leading moderates who have pushed both pro-choice and pro-LGBT policies.

Her move also comes as moderate Republicans have been embracing a more Democratic stand in the state following a 2012 election that saw conservatives oust many moderate Republicans from the Legislature. Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita is now a Democrat and is challenging Kobach for reelection. In addition other prominent moderate Republicans are backing Davis for governor.

Kansas Democratic Party executive director Jason Perkey told The Celock Report that Pauls’ decision was “her choice.” He said that the KDP was more interested in working on the 2014 election than focusing on Pauls’ decision.

“The Kansas Democratic Party is focusing on recruiting candidates right now who want to restore cuts to education so we can provide our kids with a good quality education in order to grow our economy for future generations,” Perkey said.

Democrats have been making the education funding bill enacted by the Legislature and Brownback earlier this year, which includes rolling back due process rights for teachers, a centerpiece of their fall campaign.

Pauls, a former judge, has long been considered one of the most conservative lawmakers in Topeka and has raised eyebrows with her past actions, including supporting retaining a ban on sodomy in state law. Sodomy bans have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court but have to be legislatively removed from state code. In 2012, when a federal court moved her home to an unfriendly district, Pauls moved her legal residence to an abandoned church she owns in Hutchison. A state board consisting of three Republican state constitutional officers ruled that she could legally live in the church.

Pauls used her statement to note that she saw in 2012 that the Democratic Party had abandoned her first.

“My twenty years of loyalty to the Democrat Party was met last election with official support from the party headquarters for the LGBT caucus that was attacking and trying to unseat me, the senior member of the Democrat House caucus,” she said. “That was a clear demonstration to me of a new Democrat party policy and priority. The Blue Dogs are run off, labor is at the back of the line, and political correctness rules even though it doesn’t sell with the public.