Republican Rep. Kent Thompson of LaHarpe said he does not plan to run for re-election to his District 9 seat in the Kansas Legislature.
“There comes a time and I think now’s the time,” he said. “I really struggled with the decision to run the last couple of elections, just because of the time commitment it requires, and I came to the conclusion this was the time to make a change.”
Thompson said he almost retired from the Legislature two years ago, but with the state and nation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he felt it was important to have experienced lawmakers to navigate that difficult time.
“I felt an obligation. Because of everything we were going through — as a community, as a state, as a nation — I needed to step up.”
Thompson, a moderate Republican, also said he believes the Legislature’s far-right tilt in recent years makes it more difficult to find compromise.
“It’s getting harder and harder to be a common-sense Republican,” he said.
“That job is truly the art of compromise. It’s getting more and more difficult by the year, in my opinion.”
THOMPSON joined the Legislature nine years ago.
At the time, Rep. Ed Bideau had died unexpectedly. Several area residents encouraged Thompson to fill the vacancy Bideau’s death created.
During his tenure, Kansas lawmakers faced several challenges, particularly in funding education and transportation programs.
Thomspon said he feels good about where those two issues stand.
“It’s been a tough thing to do, but our education is funded at a constitutional level according to the Kansas Supreme Court,” he said. “And we have a new transportation program in place. When you look back on it, those things are difficult to do in today’s world.”
Thompson has advocated for Medicaid expansion, an issue his more conservative counterparts oppose. Kansas is just one of a dozen states that has not adopted the expansion.
“I wish it had happened when I was a legislator, but it did not.”
In leaving his post, Thompson plans to devote more time to his businesses, his farms and his family.
When he first became a Legislator, he didn’t have grandchildren. Now he has four.
“Life has changed for me in the last nine years. I’ve got things I’m looking forward to doing and having more time to do those things,” he said.
He has spoken to several people who are interested in running for the seat. Dr. Fred Gardner, a veterinarian from Garnett, has filed for the position as a Republican but Thompson said he has not spoken to him about it.
Because of redistricting, the deadline to file for the Kansas House of Representatives was extended to noon on Friday, June 10. That also applies to Congressional seats as well as the Kansas Senate and school board. The deadline for other offices was June 1.
Thompson said it’s been an honor to serve.
“I’d like to think I left things better than I found them,” he said.
“As we move forward, we all want what’s best for the State of Kansas. Everybody has a different opinion of what that is, but we all want the most productive and efficient state government we can have.”
IN ADDITION to Gardner’s filing for the District 9 seat, a few other area residents have filed for election.
With redistricting, District 9 now includes all of Allen and Anderson counties, as well as a small portion of northwest Linn and southern Miami counties.
That also means District 2 no longer includes any part of Allen County; it previously covered part of the southeast portion of the county. That seat is currently filled by Rep. Ken Collins, who is running for re-election.
Republican Sen. Caryn Tyson, whose District 12 includes Allen County, has filed to run for state treasurer. So far, she’ll have to face at least one primary challenger; Steven Johnson of Assaria also has filed for the Republican ticket.
On the Democratic party’s side, incumbent Lynn Rogers filed to keep his seat as state Treasurer.
Gov. Laura Kelly and her running mate, Iola native David Toland, have filed for re-election. They’ll be challenged in the Democratic primary by Richard S. Karnowski of Emmett and his running mate Barry J. Franco.
The presumptive Republican nominee is current Attorney General Derek Schmidt. He announced his running mate would be Katie Sawyer, state director for U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall.
At least one Republican will challenge Schmidt, and he has local ties.
Arlyn Briggs, a Kincaid man who owns property in Allen County, has filed for governor as a Republican with running mate Lance Berland.