Winners of 125 campaigns for Kansas House gather Monday at the Capitol to determine whether elections have consequences for Republican and Democratic leaders of the chamber.
At stake is the degree to which the House collaborates or opposes the agenda set by Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, a Topeka state senator who takes office at the outset of the 2019 legislative session. The Senate serves four-year terms and its members won't be up for election until 2020.
In January, the partisan split in the House will remain 85 Republicans and 40 Democrats. The ouster of moderate GOP members in the 2018 elections could trigger changes in leadership. The cycle delivered high-profile Democratic gains with election of Kelly as governor and Sharice Davids to Congress, and both parties might opt for new caucus bosses.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican and the chamber's top official, appears positioned to be re-elected by peers to another two-year term. He could be challenged by Shawnee Rep.-elect Owen Donohoe, part of the Republican Party's hard right and a skeptic of Ryckman's decision in 2017 to help override then-Gov. Sam Brownback's veto of a tax increase.
House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton lawmaker considered a moderate, said he would ask the Republican caucus to retain him in a post dedicated to deciding what bills come to the House floor. He said his partnership with Ryckman helped unify diverse Republicans in the House.
"I think it's important all perspectives within the caucus are represented in leadership," Hineman said.
Hineman is expected to run against conservative Reps. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, and Ron Highland, a GOP lawmaker from Wamego.
"Best of luck to my good friend Dan Hawkins in his bid to defeat Don Hineman. The Kansas House desperately needs a true Republican in that role," said Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita Republican who won't be participating in the vote after losing his re-election campaign in the primary.
Hineman was chosen majority leader in 2016 after moderates made inroads in the House. It isn't clear he can secure a minimum 41 votes among Republican peers to keep the job.
In August, he tried to avert a GOP rebellion by sending an email to more than 25 Republican colleagues warning it could be a "career-ending move" to endorse Democrat Laura Kelly or independent Greg Orman rather than Republican Kris Kobach in the race for governor.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, will compete for the post against Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita lawmaker who held the job 20 years ago. Both contenders have told Democratic colleagues they possessed the 21 votes to win.
"I will be the House minority leader," Ward said.
Rep. Vic Miller, a Topeka Democrat chosen to fill Kelly's unexpired Senate term, said Ward didn't raise enough money to support Democratic candidates in winnable races. Centrist House incumbents Adam Lusker, of Frontenac, Ed Trimmer, of Winfield, and Eber Phelps, of Hays, lost re-election campaigns, suggesting the collection of Democrats in Topeka might drift to the left.
"Based on what happened in Kansas, I'm disappointed we didn't pick up seats in the House," Miller said. "I've explained to Rep. Ward I can't support him. I felt like he walked away from the caucus to run for governor."