Tagkansas

Stories about Kansas

Former state Rep. Ronald Ryckman appointed to the Kansas state Senate

The Republican precinct committees of Kansas Senate District 38 appointed Ronald Ryckman (R) to the state Senate on March 4. Ryckman replaces Bud Estes (R), who passed away on Feb. 13.

Since the vacancy occurred before May 1 of the second year of Estes’ term, a special election will be held in November 2022. The winner of that election will serve until Estes’ term expires in January 2025.

Before his appointment, Ryckman served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, representing District 115. He did not run for re-election to the state House in 2016. Ryckman’s son, Ron Ryckman, currently serves in the Kansas House of Representatives, representing District 78 since 2013. Ron Ryckman also serves as the speaker of the House. 

As of March 11, there have been 31 state legislative vacancies in 21 states so far this year. Fifteen of those vacancies have been filled. Ryckman is one of five Republicans to fill state legislative vacancies in 2021.

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Supporters, opponents of Louisiana constitutional amendment on abortion raised over $1 million in 2020

Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition, the campaign in support of Louisiana Amendment 1, and Louisiana for Personal Freedoms, the opposition campaign, reported receiving a combined total of $1.1 million in contributions for the 2020 election cycle. 

Louisiana voters approved Amendment 1 in November 2020 by a vote of 62.06% to 37.94%. It added language to the Louisiana Constitution stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

According to the latest campaign finance reports filed February 17, Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition reported $681,191 in contributions. The top donors to the coalition included:
• LA Right to Life Educational Committee – $280,000
• Edward L. Rispone – $50,000
• Donald T. Bollinger – $25,000
• Kenneth Wood Sr. – $25,000
• William Henry Shane Jr. – $20,000

Louisiana for Personal Freedoms reported $428,824 in cash and in-kind contributions. The top donors to the committee included:
• BYP 100 – $150,000
• Open Society – $100,00
• Lift Louisiana – $80,758.12
• Planned Parenthood Action Fund – $51,448
• Catholics for Choice – $5,000

As of 2021, at least 10 states, according to The Guttmacher Institute, provided a state constitutional right to abortion based on court rulings. Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. In Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), West Virginia (2018), and Louisiana (2020), these constitutional amendments were passed. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), these constitutional amendments were defeated.

Kansas voters will be deciding a similar measure in August 2022 to state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion and that the state legislature has the authority to pass laws regarding abortion. The amendment was a response to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt (2019), in which the court decided that the Kansas Bill of Rights includes a right to abortion.

Louisiana Amendment 1 was referred to the ballot by the state legislature in June 2019. A two-thirds vote is needed in each chamber of the Louisiana State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment.

Committees registered to support or oppose all 129 statewide measures on the ballot in 2020 reported a combined total of $1.23 billion in contributions.

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Kansas state Senator Bud Estes dies

On Feb. 13, Kansas Sen. Bud Estes (R) died after being hospitalized with an illness. Estes was first elected to state Senate District 38 in 2016, serving until his death. Before that, Estes was a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, representing District 119 from 2013 to 2017.  

Estes ran for re-election to the Kansas Senate on Nov. 3, 2020, winning with 68.9% of the vote to Edgar Pando’s (D) 31.1%. In addition to his public service, Estes had owned a farm implementation business.

Republican precinct committee members will select Estes’ replacement, with Gov. Laura Kelly (D) officially making the appointment. Since the vacancy occurred before May 1 of the second year of Estes’ term, the appointee will serve until the next general election in November 2022. A special election will then be held for the seat, with the winner serving the remainder of Estes’ term.

As of Feb. 16., there were 28 Republicans, 11 Democrats, and one vacancy in the Kansas state Senate. Kansas has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.  

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Kansas voters will decide an amendment in 2022 saying there is no right to abortion in the state constitution

The Kansas State Legislature referred the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment to the August 2, 2022, primary ballot. The amendment will reverse a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ruled that the Kansas Bill of Rights granted a right to abortion. The amendment would add a section to the Kansas Bill of Rights to state that constitution does not provide a right to abortions and the government is not required to provide funding for abortions. The new section would also add that the state legislature has the authority to pass laws to regulate abortion.

In Kansas, a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Kansas State Legislature during one legislative session is required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. This amounts to 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate.

On January 22, 2021, the state House passed HCR 5003 with a vote of 86 to 38 with one absent. All Republicans voted in favor of the amendment, and all but one Democrat that was absent voted against it. The one Independent in the House voted against the amendment as well.

The measure was introduced in the state Senate on January 21, 2021. The state Senate passed the amendment on January 28, 2021, in a vote of 28-11 with one absent. All 11 Democrats voted against the amendment. One Republican was absent, and the remaining 28 Republicans approved the amendment. Proponents refer to the measure as the “Value Them Both Amendment.”

The same amendment was introduced during the 2020 legislative session. After receiving a two-thirds vote in the state Senate, the state House voted 80-43 on the measure, four votes under the required two-thirds.

As of January 2021, court rulings had determined that at least 10 state constitutions provided a state constitutional right to abortion according to The Guttmacher Institute. Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. The most recent measure was approved in Louisiana in November 2020 with 61.1% of the vote. Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), and West Virginia (2018) also previously approved measures to declare no right to an abortion in their respective state constitutions. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), similar constitutional amendments were defeated.

From 1995 through 2020, the Kansas Legislature referred ten constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved eight and rejected two of the referred amendments.

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Melissa Standridge sworn in as Kansas Supreme Court justice

Melissa Standridge was sworn in on Dec. 14 as a justice on the Kansas Supreme Court. Gov. Laura Kelly (D) appointed Standridge on Nov. 30 to succeed Justice Carol Beier, who retired on Sept. 18. Standridge was Gov. Kelly’s third nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under Kansas law, the governor selects a supreme court justice from a list submitted by the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

Prior to her appointment, Standridge was a judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2020. She was appointed to that court by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D). Before that, Standridge was chambers counsel for Magistrate Judge David Waxse of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas from 1999 to 2008; an attorney for Shook, Hardy & Bacon from 1995 to 1999; and chambers counsel for Judge Elmo Hunter of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri from 1993 to 1995.

Standridge earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Kansas in 1984. She received a J.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Law Review.

In 2020, there have been 23 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, one vacancy occurred when a justice was not retained, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Kansas governor announces appointment of new lieutenant governor after current LG becomes treasurer

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced on Dec. 14 that she would appoint David Toland to the position of lieutenant governor to fill the vacancy created by her appointment of Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers (D) as state treasurer. Toland will take office after Rogers is sworn in as treasurer on Jan. 2, 2021.

Toland is currently the secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, and he will continue to serve in that position while taking on the duties of lieutenant governor. Rogers will serve as treasurer until 2022, when all elected state executive offices, including the governor, are up for election. Kelly’s appointments of Toland and Rogers do not require state legislative confirmation.

Toland will be the 52nd person to serve as Kansas’ lieutenant governor. Of the previous five officeholders dating back to 2007, two were gubernatorial appointees, and three were elected. 

Rogers will be the 41st Kansas state treasurer and the sixth Democrat to assume the position. Of the previous 40 treasurers dating back to 1859, 33 were Republican, five were Democrat, and two were Populist. 

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Kansas governor appoints Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to become state treasurer

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced Dec. 10 that she will appoint Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers (D) to the position of state treasurer to fill the vacancy created by Jacob LaTurner’s (R) election to the U.S. House. Rogers will be sworn in on Jan. 2, 2021, and will serve until the position is up for election in 2022.

Rogers was elected as lieutenant governor on Nov. 6, 2018. He also served in the Kansas State Senate from 2017 to 2019, representing District 25. 

Former Gov. Sam Brownback (R) appointed LaTurner to the position of state treasurer in April 2017. LaTurner will represent Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House when he is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021. 

Rogers will be the 41st Kansas state treasurer and the sixth Democrat to assume the position. Of the previous 40 treasurers dating back to 1859, 33 were Republican, five were Democrat, and two were Populist.



Marshall defeats Bollier in Kansas Senate election

Roger Marshall (R) defeated Barbara Bollier (D) and Jason Buckley (L) in the U.S. Senate election in Kansas. Retiring incumbent Pat Roberts (R) left the seat open.

Marshall was elected to the U.S. House in 2016. Bollier was a Republican when she served in the state House and when she was elected to the state Senate in 2016. She switched her affiliation to Democrat in December 2018. Both Bollier and Marshall are doctors.

No Democrat appeared on the 2014 general election ballot, and Roberts won re-election with 53% of the vote to independent Greg Orman’s 43%. In 2018, Kansas elected Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who defeated Kris Kobach (R) 48% to 43%.

Thirty-five of 100 Senate seats are up for election. Republicans have a 53-47 majority. Of the 35 seats up, 23 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats, giving Republicans greater partisan risk this year. Democrats need to win a net four seats to win an outright majority in the chamber.



Former U.S. Sen. Kassebaum (R) endorses Bollier (D) in KS race

Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R) endorsed Barbara Bollier (D) in the Senate race in Kansas. Kassebaum held the seat from 1978 until 1997. Pat Roberts (R), the retiring incumbent in 2020, succeeded her. Bollier, Roger Marshall (R), and Jason Buckley (L) are on the ballot.

Bollier, a state senator, served in the state House and Senate as a Republican until switching her affiliation to Democrat in December 2018. She cited school funding and Medicaid expansion among the issues influencing her switch. Bollier has endorsements from several current and former Republican state legislators.

Marshall has served in the U.S. House since 2017. Roberts and President Donald Trump (R) endorsed him. Sheila Frahm (R), who was appointed to the state’s other U.S. Senate seat in 1996 and lost that year’s primary to Sam Brownback, endorsed Marshall the same day Kassebaum endorsed Bollier.

The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman wrote, “Both Frahm and Kassebaum hail from an era of moderate Republicanism in Kansas. … Both Frahm and Kassebaum endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly in the 2018 governor’s race.”

Kansas has not elected a Democratic senator since 1932. No Democrat appeared on the 2014 general election ballot, and Roberts won re-election with 53% of the vote to independent Greg Orman’s 43%. In the 2018 gubernatorial race, Kelly defeated Kris Kobach (R) 48% to 43%. Marshall defeated Kobach and nine others in the 2020 Republican primary.

The outcome of this race will affect the partisan control of the U.S. Senate. Thirty-five of the 100 seats will be up for election, including two special elections. As of September 2020, the Republican Party has a 53-seat majority in the chamber. Democrats have 45 seats. Independents who caucus with the Democrats hold the two remaining seats. Republicans face greater partisan risk in the general election, as they are defending 23 seats while Democrats are defending 12. Both parties have two incumbents representing states the opposite party’s presidential nominee won in 2016.

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U.S. Senate delegation from Kansas



Kansas’ state legislative Republican primaries alter the ideological makeup of GOP caucus

On August 4, 12 of the 28 Republican state legislative incumbents facing primary challenges in Kansas lost their primaries. These results could alter the makeup of the Republican caucus in 2021.

Local media sources like The Wichita Eagle, Shawnee Mission Post, and The Kansas City Star identified nine incumbents whose primaries and defeats were representative of an intra-party divide over issues including Medicaid expansion and abortion laws.

Michael Ryan wrote in The Kansas City Star, “A good number of conservatives absolutely washed over their more moderate state legislative opponents in Tuesday’s Republican primary election.”

Jonathan Shorman wrote in The Wichita Eagle, “The influence of Kansas Republican moderates has waxed and waned. Gov. Sam Brownback [(R)] helped oust them in 2012. Voters then swept them back into office in 2016 to end his signature income tax cuts and stabilize the budget.” Shorman continued, “But with last week’s primary losses, their ranks have been depleted to levels not seen for years.”

The following six state senators lost Republican primaries this year. All were first elected in 2016, the year of the most recent state senate elections. Sens. John Skubal, Bruce Givens, Randall Hardy, and Edward Berger defeated Republican incumbents in primaries themselves that year.

• District 11: Sen. John Skubal, lost to Kellie Warren 64-36%
• District 14: Sen. Bruce Givens, lost to Michael Fagg 54-46%
• District 15: Sen. Dan Goddard, lost to Virgil Peck, Jr. 50.1-49.9%
• District 24: Sen. Randall Hardy, lost to J.R. Claeys 63-37%
• District 33: Sen. Mary Jo Taylor, lost to Alicia Straub 60-40%
• District 34: Sen. Edward Berger, lost to Mark Steffen 57.5%-42.5%

The following three state representatives lost Republican primaries this year.

• District 20: Rep. Jan Kessinger, lost to Jane Dirks 57-43%
• District 42: Rep. Jim Karleskint, lost to Lance Neelly 52-48%
• District 71: Rep. Diana Dierks, lost to Steven Howe 62-38%

Local media outlets identified the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment as a noteworthy issue in the primaries featuring Sen. Skubal and Rep. Kessinger. If passed, the measure would have placed a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the August 4 ballot stating that there is no right to abortion or public funding for abortions in the Kansas Constitution.

A two-thirds vote of all members in each chamber of the Kansas State Legislature was required to refer the amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

In the Senate, that equaled 27 votes and, in the House, 84. Republicans held supermajorities in both the Senate and House with 29 and 84 members, respectively, equal or greater to the two-thirds threshold in both chambers.

Skubal and Kessinger voted against placing the measure on the ballot. The Senate approved the amendment. Kessinger and three other Republicans joined 39 Democrats to vote against the amendment in the House, resulting in a final vote of 80-43, four votes short of passage.

Skubal’s and Kessinger’s primary defeats and the retirement of the three House Republicans who voted against the amendment with Kessinger means none of the five Republicans who opposed the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment will return for the 2021 legislative session.

Heading into the November elections, Kansas has a divided government. Republicans control both the Senate and the House. Democrats hold the governorship following Gov. Laura Kelly’s election in 2018. The next gubernatorial election will be held on November 8, 2022. In the Senate, Republicans will retain a veto-proof supermajority if they gain seats, hold their current number of seats, or lose a net of two seats. In the House, Republicans will retain a veto-proof majority if they gain or hold their current number seats. If Democrats gain a net of one seat, they will control more than one-third of the House seats.

To read more background, local commentary, and historical data on Kansas’ state legislative Republican primaries, click here.