Until Monday, Dawn Marie Addiego was the deputy whip for the New Jersey Senate Republicans. Now, she is the newest member of the chamber’s Democratic majority.
While it did not get as much attention as their landslide victory in the U.S. House and their gains in state governorships, Democrats picked up more than 300 seats in state legislatures across the country during the 2018 midterm elections. Since then, Republican state lawmakers from three states have become Democrats. Several legislators in Kansas even made the switch despite Democrats being in the minority. Many of these lawmakers cited their former party’s lurch to the right, and the lack of inclusiveness in the party now led by President Donald Trump.
Addiego, who has served in the New Jersey Senate since 2010, said in a statement Monday: “My core values that originally drew me to the Republican Party have not changed, but the party which once echoed the vision of Ronald Reagan no longer exists. Oil drilling off our coast and tax policy which unfairly penalizes New Jersey families are just a few examples of a National Republican Party that has lost its way.”
Last week, California Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein announced that he, too, has decided to become a Democrat. He lamented in his announcement speech that “the Republican Party has drifted further right,” and blasted Trump, saying, “His conduct has been very offensive really since the beginning … his conduct was reprehensible, immature, counterproductive to what I believed was best for the country.”
Last month, Kansas state Sens. Barbara Bollier and Dinah Sykes, and state Rep. Stephanie Clayton all severed their Republican ties and became Democrats. As moderates, they objected to the party’s rightward drift. “I don’t have that pit in my stomach. That stress of knowing I don’t agree with so many of the policies [pushed by Republican colleagues],” Bollier said of her relief after the switch.
“I have consistently campaigned on a pro-education, pro-business, pro-stability platform. I have been a proud Republican my entire life. However, the recent moves to support chaos in public policy have caused me great concern,” Clayton wrote in a statement.
“I am a moderate person who represents a moderate and pragmatic district that expects me to focus on issues and solutions that impact their day-to-day lives,” Sykes explained in her announcement press release. “Increasingly, I see the Republican party focusing on issues and approaches that divide our country. I do not agree with that approach.”
Days before leaving office in December, defeated incumbent Republican Kansas state Rep. Joy Koesten also joined the Democratic Party. She explained in her newsletter, “I just can’t stomach trying to ‘fit in’ any more to a party that grieves me so each and every day.”
“We are an inclusive party, bounded by the belief that elected officials are responsible for delivering the best representation possible for those they were elected to serve,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Jessica Post told ThinkProgress in a statement. “With the Republican Party tent becoming increasingly exclusive, extremist, and divisive, we are proud that we can provide a home for legislators who put people before party.”
In addition to those legislative defections, California Republicans also suffered a major blow in December when the state’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye left the GOP and became an independent. She cited the divisive confirmation hearings for Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as having ultimately convinced her that the Republican label is now “not something that reflects who I am.”
In recent months, Republican grifters have attempted to create an Astroturf “movement” inventing a narrative that, inspired by Trump, a great many Democrats had decided to “#WalkAway” from their party. But in America’s state legislatures, these latest switches demonstrate that quite the opposite is true.