Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Topeka's Jim Gartner join list of retiring lawmakers

The Topeka Capital-Journal
The Topeka Capital-Journal

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, confirmed he wouldn't seek re-election Monday, amid a slate of farewell speeches by retiring lawmakers on the final day of the 2022 legislative session.

There was widespread speculation that Ryckman wouldn't run again after serving an unprecedented third term as speaker. He was first elected to the House in 2012.

In a speech on the House floor, Ryckman said "to everything there is a season, a time to every purpose, to every work."

"There are no words to adequately express what an honor it has been to serve alongside you and to earn your confidence for three terms as speaker," he said.

Speaking with reporters, Ryckman was mum on what comes next but confirmed he wouldn't be serving as the lieutenant governor pick for Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the presumptive GOP nominee for governor.

"Right now, I'm going to do what I can to make sure he is our next governor," Ryckman said.

Blaine Finch, Jim Gartner announce they won't seek re-election

Another member of leadership, House Speaker Pro Tempore Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, also won't seek re-election. Like Ryckman, he has served in the Legislature since 2012.

"Ten years have flown by for me in the blink of an eye," Finch said.

They were joined in the retirement ranks by Rep. Jim Gartner, D-Topeka, who has been a legislator since 2016.

Looking back to when he first arrived in the Statehouse, Gartner said he enjoyed his first two years in the Legislature.

"Back then, we seemed to reach across the aisle, compromise, work together and we were able to repeal the (Sam Brownback) tax experiment — which that's one of the reasons we're in the financial shape we are today," he said.

While away from the Legislature, he asked himself whether he wanted to return.

"I told myself I'll go back and if I have fun and get some things accomplished, I'll file (for reelection)," he said. "Guess what, I didn't have a lot of fun."

Gartner previously said that eliminating the state sales tax on food was his top priority and was perhaps the staunchest legislative advocate of doing so.

After months of fighting for the Democrat plan to cut the state's 6.5% sales tax rate on groceries to 0% starting July 1, Gartner ultimately voted against a Republican plan to phase out the tax over three years starting after Election Day.

Gartner voiced opposition procedures, rules and the bundling of bills in the tax committee. Earlier this session, a single tax bill was the compilation of 29 separate tax bills that went to the House floor with no opportunity for representatives to offer amendments.

"Too bad politics has to enter the process, because I think we really could have done some major good things this year — more than we accomplished," Gartner said.

Local area Reps. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka, and Ron Highland, R-Wamego, previously announced their retirements

A dozen Kansas legislators announce they won't seek re-election

Also retiring from the Legislature — but not necessarily from politics — are the following:

  • Rep. Jesse Burris, R-Mulvane, who is running for a judgeship;
  • Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City;
  • Rep. Lonnie Clark, R-Junction City;
  • Rep. David French, R-Lansing
  • Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center;
  • Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, who is running for Treasurer;
  • Rep. Jim Kelly, R-Independence;
  • Rep. Marty Long, R-Ulysses
  • Rep. Megan Lynn, R-Olathe;
  • Rep. Richard Proehl, R-Parsons;
  • Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-Kansas City.

All 125 seats in the House of Representatives will be on the November general election ballot, as will be the governor's race. Senators won't stand for reelection until 2024.

Jason Tidd is a statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Tidd.

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