- Associated Press - Friday, May 30, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas House member announced Friday she was leaving the Democratic Party to seek re-election as a Republican, citing what she calls Democratic hostility to her opposition to abortion and gay rights.

Jan Pauls, of Hutchinson, announced her decision as legislators formally ended the 2014 session. She was first elected to the House in 1992 and said she hasn’t changed politically, but that Democrats have under its current leadership.

“I’m sick of having the party work against me,” Pauls said. “I don’t know that they could have done enough to keep me.”

Pauls said the party was more centrist when she was first elected when Gov. Joan Finney, also a Democrat, was in office.

“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,” she said.

Jason Perkey, executive director of the state Democratic Party, responded to Pauls‘ decision saying “that’s her choice.”

Republicans hold a 93-32 majority over Democrats in the House and 32-8 in the Senate. No Democrat serves in a legislative seat west of Wichita in south-central Kansas.

Pauls specifically called out the influence within the Democratic Party of Tom Witt, executive director of the group Equality Kansas. Witt once sought to have Pauls censured by party officials over her positions on gay rights.

Witt questioned whether Pauls could have won a Democratic primary in her district.

“I don’t care what party a bigot calls themselves,” Witt said. “We will go after them, whether they call themselves Democratic, Republican or Martian.

“Switching to the Republican Party is not going to save her.”

Pauls was joined for her announcement by House Speaker Ray Merrick, other GOP legislators and state Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold.

The decision capped what was otherwise a ceremonial day for legislators who finished their work in the House and Senate by 11 a.m. Many House members used the day to file for re-election ahead of Monday’s deadline.

House members did vote 96-5 to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill to change ethics laws regarding transfer of funds from campaign accounts to civic organizations, as well as eliminate a reporting requirement for lobbyists who spend less than $500. Senators made no effort to override the measure and the veto stands.