Wichitans elected to leadership positions in TopekaPosted: Updated:
Rep. Dan Hawkins of Wichita won a vote of GOP members and members-elect over moderate Majority Leader Don Hineman of Dighton. The vote was 48-35, with one member not voting and another absent.
Hawkins' election is likely to complicate Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly's efforts to pass her legislative agenda. She wants to expand the state's Medicaid health coverage for the needy, and Hineman backed the idea. Hawkins opposes Medicaid expansion.
Hineman has served as majority leader for the past two years. His election in 2016 signaled a resurgence of GOP moderates' strength.
But conservatives regained at least six seats at moderates' expense in this year's elections even though the partisan split in the House remained at 85-40.
Democrats in the Kansas House have replaced the chamber's minority leader.
The vote Monday among Democratic members and members-elect was 24-16 in favor of Rep. Tom Sawyer over Rep. Jim Ward. Both are veteran legislators from Wichita, but Ward has a reputation for being more of a firebrand.
Ward has been minority leader during the past two years, serving with conservative Republicans Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer as governor. Sawyer will have the job of helping shepherd Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly's agenda through the Legislature.
Sawyer served as minority leader from 1993 through 1998, stepping down to run unsuccessfully for governor that year. He returned to the House in 2003, stepped down in 2009 for a seat on the state parole board and came back to the House in 2013.