These Republicans Are Backing Democratic Candidates in the Midterms

In Kansas, more than two dozen Republicans are opposing Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a gubernatorial candidate who has vowed to make abortion illegal if elected.

Current and former GOP officials have come out against Kris Kobach in his run for the Kansas governorship. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The final weeks before the midterm elections have seen a surge in current and former Republican officials endorsing Democratic candidates.

It’s about having “the courage to do what’s right for the country and what’s right for your state,” said former GOP Sen. John Warner, who represented Virginia for three decades and now supports Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat and former investigative journalist running to represent the state’s Fifth Congressional District, according to the Fauquier Times.

He said he’s “still a Republican,” but called Cockburn “an exceptional candidate.” He told the Fauquier Times he agrees with her on health care, education, and gun control.

“I know guns pretty well. And there’s things we’ve got locked in, they’re just wrong. I don’t know how were going to break that one,” said Warner, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

Warner is also endorsing Democrat Abigail Spanberger, who is running to unseat GOP Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s Seventh District. The 91-year-old Republican, who did not support Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, told NBC News that he is particularly troubled by the way the president handles national security.

In Kansas, more than two dozen prominent Republicans are now supporting Democratic gubernatorial nominee Laura Kelly over Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has vowed to make abortion illegal if elected as governor.

They include former GOP Kansas governor Bill Graves, former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, former Kansas Senate President Dick Bond, and Sheila Frahm, who has has occupied a U.S. Senate seat and the lieutenant governor’s office.

Kassebaum, who endorsed Kelly in September, told the Kansas City Star that the candidate’s 18 years of experience in the state legislature gives Kelly “a real understanding of what it takes to work across the aisle.”

“I’m a Republican, but that doesn’t mean you walk lock step always with the party,” Kassebaum said.

Frahm said Kelly will bring Kansans together and “will slam the door on the failed policies of Sam Brownback and stop Kris Kobach.” Kobach has pledged a return to many of the policies implemented by Brownback, the Republican governor whose austerity agenda created an economic crisis in the state.

A new poll shows Kelly slightly ahead of Kobach.

And even in the historically red Texas, Democratic challengers are drawing cross-party support.

Jerry Patterson, the former Texas land commissioner and a Republican, has endorsed Miguel Suazo, a Democrat running to unseat Republican George P. Bush, the current land commissioner. In a state house district up north, former state lawmaker Bennett Ratliff is supporting Democrat Julie Johnson over Republican incumbent Matt Rinaldi, the Texas Tribune reports.

In Alabama, six former state supreme court justices, including three Republicans, have endorsed Democratic Judge Bob Vance for chief justice over Republican Associate Justice Tom Parker, according to Alabama Public Radio.

Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas, Austin, said Republican officials crossing over and supporting Democrats is not that unusual.

As the Republican party has gotten bigger, it includes more people with different and conflicting viewpoints, Shaw said. He cited wide gaps in positions on social issues between Republicans in coastal cities versus their more conservative counterparts in suburban or rural areas.

While that tension has been around for some time, Shaw said Trump has added fuel to the fire with his charged comments on issues like economic policy, an area he says Republicans largely agreed on until now.

Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause, a non-partisan government watchdog nonprofit, said he thinks the cross-party endorsements are a sign that “Americans are dissatisfied with the status quo.”