The race ended months ago for Barbara Bollier, but her drive to make a difference in the state’s political scene lives on.
The Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful who lost to Republican Roger Marshall last fall remains active as she seeks to make a difference in Kansas politics.
Bollier now chairs a recently formed political action committee that seeks to elect Democrats to the state Senate.
Kansans for a Democratic Senate was formed in February. Former Johnson County Democratic Party Chair Nancy Leiker is the PAC’s treasurer.
The PAC is separate from the Kansas Senate Democratic Committee, which is chaired by Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes.
However, it’s intended to replace the Senate Dems PAC, which had been by chaired by Matt Watkins.
Bollier plays down her role with the PAC, saying she’s “just there to help.”
“I’m being me, continuing to care about our state, knowing the way things happen is you have to participate in our system civically,” she said in an interview.
“This is one of my ways.”
The PAC is holding its inaugural fundraiser — virtually — next week.
Along with Bollier, it will be hosted by Gov. Laura Kelly, Lt. Gov. David Toland and state Treasurer Lynn Rogers.
Bollier said the state Senate — where there are now 11 Democrats — has shifted even more to the right as it tries to link funding for public education to bills promoting school choice with public subsidies.
“It is shocking where they have gone,” Bollier said of the Senate.
“The biggest concern is its movement away from fully funding public education and wanting to put in vouchers, let alone not following public sentiment to expand Medicaid,” Bollier said.
There is a more conservative presence in the Senate since last year, when a half-dozen moderate Republicans — many who supported Medicaid expansion — were defeated in GOP primaries.
“The current composition of the Senate is, as you know, strongly Republican,” Leiker said in a text message.
“They are writing legislation that takes aim at our children and schools, our healthcare, our voting rights and our finances and they are doing this all in the name of opposing Gov. Kelly,” Leiker said.
“Kansas needs a Senate that is more balanced and works to support the needs of the people of Kansas rather than simply playing partisan politics.”
Bollier’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate last year meant she had to leave the state Senate. She was ultimately replaced there by Democratic Sen. Ethan Corson.
Bollier, who had been a state lawmaker for 11 years, said just because she’s not in the Legislature any longer doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to stay involved.
“I love Kansas,” she said. “That’s how I always have been engaged. That never goes away, whether you’re elected or not — or it shouldn’t.
“I had to give up my seat because of the timing. That didn’t mean that I was mentally leaving what goes on in the Kansas Legislature,” she said.
Mike Kuckelman, chair of the state Republican Party, shrugged off news of the PAC.
No PAC “can change the fact that today’s Democratic Party is too extreme for Kansas and Barbara Bollier should have realized that this past November,” he said in a statement.
“Kansas Republicans are energized more than ever to take back the governor’s office, flip the 3rd Congressional District, and continue to grow our supermajorities in the Kansas Legislature.”
The PAC is not Bollier’s only involvement in politics.
She’s joining up with Democratic state Rep. Brett Parker to form a nonprofit group in an effort to engage voters and get them involved in their community.
While the group — Prairie Roots — has not officially launched its 501(c)(4) yet, it has already started putting out details about its organization.
The group already has announced that Peyton Browning, assistant finance director for Bollier’s Senate campaign, will serve as director of initiatives.
Marcos Descalzi, a field coordinator for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in Iowa, will serve as the group’s director of organizing.
Descalzi also was district director for the Progressive Turnout Project, a Chicago-based group that bills itself as the largest voter contact organization in the country with a mission of getting Democrats to vote.