A Manhattan man who has been both a Democrat and a Republican is working to form a third political party in Kansas to provide moderates a platform in the political process.
Aaron Estabrook early this year filed political action committee finance papers for the Moderate Party of Kansas. The fledgling PAC has little money but has named executive officers and is targeting the 2014 elections, The Hutchinson News reported Friday.
Estabrook said he hopes the Moderate Party of Kansas can bring moderate Republicans and Democrats together “to find common ground in the face of extremism.”
Nick Hoheisel, who is pursuing a political science degree at Wichita State University, is the party's vice president. He has been a registered Republican since 2004.
The party's communications director, Dave Warren of Leawood, worked in Republican Gov. Bill Graves' administration. And its deputy communications director, Kelly Schodorf of Wichita, is the daughter of former State Sen. Jean Schodorf, a moderate.
Since she was targeted by conservatives in her own party and defeated in the 2012 elections, Jean Schodorf has dropped her Republican affiliation.
Hoheisel said he believes in small government, secure national borders and the right to carry concealed handguns, and thinks some social programs should be dropped.
But he also said in an email to The News that he believes government should “protect the most vulnerable amongst us” and that he supports expanding background checks for gun purchases, giving a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and providing equal protection for gays.
To become a recognized party in Kansas, the Moderate Party would need to collect nearly 17,000 signatures on petitions by June 1, 2014, in order to be involved in the 2014 elections.
“I'm not sure it's possible in a year's time, but it's also not impossible,” Hoheisel said, adding that if the signatures aren't collected, the group's members “will still fully support moderate candidates.”
Estabrook worked for conservative Republican Tim Huelskamp when he served in the Kansas Legislature before being elected to Congress. In 2006, Estabrook registered as a Democrat, citing the Iraq War as one reason. He served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.
“Upon returning to Kansas in 2011, I could not believe the radical nature that conservatism had taken the shape of,” Estabrook wrote in the email to the newspaper. “Our legislators were spending so much time restricting rights that it almost felt like they envied Afghans.”
Estabrook lost a bid for the Kansas House in November 2012, running as a Democrat.
Kansas currently recognizes only the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties. The Reform and the Americans Elect parties were once official parties in Kansas, but they have lost that status.
Strict requirements for becoming a political party mean The Moderate Party of Kansas has a “slim” chance of being recognized, especially in time for the 2014 elections, Kansas State University political science professor Joe Aistrup said.