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Legislative veterans to lead both parties in Kansas House

Kansas Health Institute/File photo

Kansas state Rep. Dan Hawkins has been chosen to be House speaker after serving four years as majority leader.

Kansas House Republicans on Monday promoted their No. 2 leader into the top job of speaker, while Democrats picked a veteran of state and local politics to lead them over a much younger relative newcomer.

State Rep. Dan Hawkins, of Wichita, faced no opposition among the 85 GOP House members and members-elect to his promotion. He's served four years as majority leader, promoting the GOP's agenda as a vocal critic of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

GOP unity behind Hawkins contrasted with a divide among Democrats over who should lead them for the next two years. They voted 21-19 for 71-year-old state Rep. Vic Miller, of Topeka, over 32-year-old Rep. Brandon Woodard, of Lenexa, the first openly gay man to serve in the Legislature.

The full House must ratify Hawkins’ selection when lawmakers open their annual session Jan. 9, but that’s a formality.

Hawkins, 62, replaces Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., of Olathe, who is retiring from the Legislature. Miller replaces state Rep. Tom Sawyer, of Wichita, who won reelection but stepped down as leader.

Miller has served 10 years in the House since 1979, filling a Senate vacancy briefly and holding jobs in the state Department of Revenue and local government in between three House stints. Woodard was first elected to the House in 2018.

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