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Former GOP Chairman Switches Party to Run With Gov. Sebelius

The former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party jumped ship in a big way Tuesday, switching his affiliation to Democrat amid speculation that he would become Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' running mate.

Johnson County Elections Commissioner Brian Newby confirmed that Mark Parkinson, the state GOP chairman from 1999 to 2003, came to the office and switched his party affiliation shortly before noon.

Parkinson's name has been widely circulated as Sebelius' choice for a running mate as the Democratic governor seeks a second term. Current Lt. Gov. John Moore — another former Republican — is retiring when his term expires in early 2007.

Sebelius spokeswoman, Nicole Corcoran, would not comment about Parkinson, but said an announcement of the governor's choice of running mates was scheduled Wednesday not far from Parkinson's home in Olathe, a Kansas City suburb.

"Traditionally, you do see that the first stop would be in or around that person's home base. It would be safe to assume that she would be choosing someone from the Johnson County area," Corcoran said.

Parkinson didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison also switched parties from Republican to Democrat to challenge Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican, in the November election.

Republican House Speaker Doug Mays said he was disgusted by Parkinson's lack of loyalty to the party that made him chairman, but he isn't surprised by the rift.

The Republican Party, which has dominated Kansas politics since statehood, has shifted to the right in recent years and it inevitably will shift back to the left, he said. Instead of defecting to challenge one another, though, Republicans need to find common ground, he said.