OVERLAND PARK, Kan.—Barbara Bollier was far from home, and even farther from her party, when she learned of her political defenestration this summer: The conservatives who control the government in Kansas had stripped her of a plum committee post in the state Senate.
Bollier’s crime, such as it was, was not a tawdry scandal. She was not accused of corruption or any other official malfeasance. Nor was she cited for child abuse or charged with election fraud, as were two Republican legislative candidates who will appear on the ballot this fall. Bollier, a 60-year-old retired physician and eight-year veteran of the legislature, was merely guilty of disloyalty. The lifelong moderate Republican had, a day earlier, dared to endorse the Democratic candidate for governor, Laura Kelly, over either of the two Republicans who at the time were running in the Kansas primary, Governor Jeff Colyer and Kris Kobach, the arch-conservative secretary of state. Losing the committee post was punishment, and a warning shot to other GOP legislators thinking about defecting in a gubernatorial race that will shape Kansas’s fiscal future.
“I’m an embarrassment to the party,” Bollier noted sarcastically as we chatted over beers in her suburban Kansas City district recently. Not the alleged abuser. “Not the man who has committed perjury in running. But the person who decided that Laura Kelly would be a good governor.”
Colyer, the former lieutenant governor, had taken over the top job just six months earlier and was yoked to the unpopular record of the man he replaced, Sam Brownback, the conservative ex-senator who had presided over a self-described “experiment” in supply-side tax cuts that gutted the state’s budget. Colyer was locked in a tight primary battle with Kobach, the ambitious crusader against alleged voter fraud and illegal immigration who was pitching himself to the Republican base as the best friend Donald Trump ever had. With an assist from the president, Kobach ultimately edged out Colyer by just 343 votes.