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Another Lawmaker Goes Red

Updated: May 17

'I didn't leave the party. The party left me.'



Following a growing trend, a Cornhusker lawmaker has left the Democratic party to join the GOP.


Now-Republican state Senator Mike McDonnell, representing district 5, made the announcement Wednesday in the Nebraska Capitol Rotunda. McDonnell, at odds with his Democratic colleagues for some time, said he could no longer square his faith with his party affiliation.


“Being a Christian, a member of the Roman Catholic Church and pro-life is more important to me than being a registered Democrat,” he wrote in a letter explaining his decision. “Today I am changing my party affiliation to Republican.”


Especially irksome for Nebraska Dems was McDonnell’s recently voting in support of bills that further limited abortion in the state and restricted so-called gender-affirming care for minors.


They said he “adversely affected the reproductive rights of Nebraskans and the rights of transgender individuals in the state.”


“These failures to support human rights stand in violation to the platform of the Nebraska Democratic Party," they admonished.


His fellow Democrats had been ostracizing the 40-year veteran of the Democratic party for months, cutting him off from party resources and issuing an official censure in March.


To the censure he responded, “I am a Christian and a lifelong member of the Roman Catholic Church. … [the] admonishment of me by the Nebraska Democratic Party, because I am pro-life, is not going to change my informed conscience and religious beliefs!”


Welcome to the Party

Following the announcement, Republican lawmakers welcomed McDonnell. Former governor and now Sen. Pete Ricketts intoned: “I am pleased to welcome Senator Mike McDonnell to the Republican Team. The extreme new Democrats are pushing common sense officials and voters to our party."


Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, responded by justifying the actions Dems took against McDonnell. She said, “The Nebraska Democratic Party will continue to stand up for reproductive freedom and the human rights of the LGBTQ community. Our decision to censure Sen. McDonnell was never about him being a pro-life Catholic. Our decision was based on our party reaffirming our core values to protect women’s ability to make health decisions and to keep politicians out of our personal health decisions."


"We respect the ongoing work of Senator McDonnell on behalf of unions and his commitment to protect a fair electoral vote system we have in our state,” she added.


Kleeb's reference to McDonnell's support of "a fair electoral vote system" reveals Democrat fears about Nebraska returning to a "winner-take-all" electoral system, an approach that would benefit the GOP.


McDonnell and Winner-Takes-All

GovernorJim Pillen urged the legislature on Tuesday to approve a bill that would grant the presidential winner of Nebraska all five of the state’s electoral college votes.


Pillen’s measure would nullify a 1991 law that grants the winner two electors, while the remaining three would go to the winner of each of the state’s three congressional districts.


Republicans around the country have voiced their support of the bill. Trump described Pillen’s call for law change “very smart,” in a Truth Social post.


Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga) urged Cornhuskers to pass the bill: “The 2024 Presidential election could come down to Nebraska fixing this!”


Charlie Kirk urged Nebraskan voters "to call their legislators and their governor to demand their state stop pointlessly giving strength to their political enemies."


Many commenters have noted how McDonnell votes on Pillen's bill may be of consequence in the national elections, come November.


The effort to change the electoral vote allocation system to a winner-takes-all system in Nebraska failed Wednesday night in the state’s unicameral legislature.


The proposal is expected to go up for a vote again before this session finally ends later this month.


Whatever the results of the governor's bill, a trend from blue to red, among lawmakers, is gaining steam.


Trending Red

According to Ballotpedia, 84 state lawmakers have switched from Democrat to Republican while 23 have switched from Republican to Democrat since 1994.


While a complex array of reasons precipitates the political moves, one quip is often heard among those transitioning to the Republican party: “I didn't leave the party. The party left me.”


Dr. Barbara Toth has a doctorate in rhetoric and composition from Bowling Green State University. She has taught at universities in the US, China and Saudi Arabia. Her work in setting up a writing center at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahmen University, an all-women's university in Riyadh, has been cited in American journals. Toth has published academic and non-academic articles and poems internationally.


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Same here!!! 👍👍👍

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----“Being a Christian, a member of the Roman Catholic Church and pro-life is more important to me than being a registered Democrat,”----


That's the bottom line for all moral positions, really.

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