Null’s primary opponent, Erin Robertson of Salina, had forged an e-mail to Josh, likely to use against him in the general election. Null came out of nowhere to defeat Robertson in the primary, and at some point had picked up the forgery to use as his own. Josh had been baited to give just the kind of calculating answer he did, but neither Robertson nor Null anticipated that the Svaty camp was astute or well-organized enough to discover their deception. Local politics can be nasty, but the mudslingers aren’t always smart. The Svaty campaign didn’t have to do anything beyond contacting the real Debbie Neilson, who promptly confirmed that she never wrote such an e-mail and was outraged that someone would steal her identity for such a purpose. The entire episode took place not long after the Dan Rather/CBS forged-document fiasco, where Republicans cried foul when forged documents were used to accuse President Bush of neglecting his National Guard duties. The hypocrisy was astounding:
“Now that the e-mail is out, the Null campaign is scrambling for excuses. They haven’t revealed who forged the e-mail to begin with, but Tim has claimed that it came from a concerned voter. He’s been showing the letter off door-to-door, and even now, after it has been discovered that the letter was forged in the first place, Tim is still claiming that the questions about Josh’s voting record on this issue are still relevant because of the answer he gave, regardless of who wrote the original letter or what intent it was written with.
“Remember the CBS forged document story last month? I didn’t think it was right that Dan Rather and CBS would stick with their story about Bush’s National Guard service because they were being completely underhanded and lying about the sources of information. The documents that supposedly revealed that Bush was AWOL were forged. Thus, anything else that can be gleaned from such a story is irrelevant. This is how most Republicans (including myself) felt about the CBS forgery. Now, Tim is taking the Dan Rather route; claiming that even though the letter that baited Josh into answering a question was utterly fake, Josh’s answer is still relevant. Nope; it’s not. This seems like a big-time double standard to me. We can’t pick and choose when forgeries are relevant and irrelevant. They’re always wrong.”
The election was over. Null’s negatives were nowhere near as high as Jerry Aday’s, but as much as the district may have frowned on Josh’s political calculating on the conceal-and-carry vote, they despised the trickery in which the Null campaign had engaged. Beyond the forged e-mail, Null had drawn in money from out-of-state conservative organizations that attacked Josh’s record, his experience and even his age. Voter turnout across the nation was higher in 2004, and the 108th district was no different. The new voters largely favored Null (most likely due to his core issue), but Josh still won the election with 60 percent of the vote, with over 500 more total votes than he received in 2002. We had done our jobs – substance carried the day; the voters were not fooled by a one-issue candidate who leveled unfounded accusations at a principled and thoughtful legislator.
My involvement at the local level and observations of the national political scene slowly led me away from the Republican Party and toward the moderate, detailed and logical views that I appreciated so much from legislators. When I finally left the Republican Party in August of 2006, I reflected fondly on how my involvement with and dedication to the GOP had shaped my political experience, but I rejected the bitter and severely partisan turn that so many politicians had taken:
“After nearly six years of membership — and a fairly loyal voting record, to boot — I’ve left the Republican Party. It was a decision that I’d been wrestling with for over a year and not a conclusion that I came to lightly.
“As a Republican, I was a member of a team, and a winning team at that.
“I played the role of activist, contributor, cheerleader and voter, all in the service of the GOP, which had an overarching philosophy that I overwhelmingly agreed with when I first registered to vote in September of 2000. I could simplify presidential candidates and party platforms into the starkest of black-and-white terms. I gave money to and displayed campaign signs for Republican candidates. I was a team player, and when you’re accepted into a group, you fight for the team just as hard as you can, regardless of cost or consequences.
“And then, something happened between my senior year of high school and last week when I re-registered as an independent. My former conservative colleagues would call it a ‘liberalization perpetuated by the unrealistic atmosphere of an academic environment.’ I would disagree with the arbitrary label ‘liberal’ and call my move toward moderation to be plain and simple common sense.
“Whatever you choose to call it, what happened is undeniable: I realized that politics wasn’t always black-and-white. Issues weren’t cut-and-dried. Spin and lies flowed from both sides of the aisle, and the wide gulf between the political left and right is bridged by a huge sea of moderates who are inaccurately portrayed by both liberals and conservatives alike as an irrelevant group of voters.
“I rejected the politics of ‘you’re either with me or against me.’ On the path of progress, there is no reason that the players can’t meet in the middle.”
It may have sounded as if I was disillusioned with the political process. Perhaps I was, but even stronger than any feelings of disappointment was a belief that things could be done better. I knew they could; I had seen it. When voters truly listened to detailed explanations of candidates’ beliefs rather than listening to sound bites and buying into stereotypes, there was genuine learning and informed decision-making. When Josh explained his views and his votes to the constituents of the 108th district, party labels ceased to exist – he became a principled leader with whom we could agree or disagree based on more than a campaign slogan. When George W. Bush united the nation after September 11th, he had an incredible opportunity to bury much of the partisanship that plagued Washington. The opportunities to unite, or at least to understand alternative points of view in a reasonable fashion, truly exist. We have to be the catalysts for that type of environment; we must facilitate the discussion.
 Shooting from the Lip, October 24, 2004
 Office of the Secretary of State, State of Kansas
 Shooting from the Lip, July 4, 2006