BREAKING: Parker leaving Legislature after five years

State Rep. Brett Parker questions a witness during a hearing on a school gun bill Tuesday.

Democratic state Rep. Brett Parker of Overland Park is leaving the Kansas Legislature later this year, saying it’s time to get back to the “rest of life.”

Parker said Tuesday morning that the 2021 legislative session would be his last and he would officially resign from his District 29 seat later this year.

Parker, 35, was just elected to a third term last year and had been one of the more progressive members of the Democratic caucus in the Legislature.

“I have given it my all for five years,” Parker said in an interview. “Being a state legislator at times is thankless work but also a real privilege.

“It’s time for me to step aside and let someone else fill that role and get back to the rest of life,” he said.

He explained his decision an in an email to sent out to the Democratic caucus on Tuesday morning.

“I’m proud of the good work that I’ve been privileged to take part in with you all,” Parker wrote.

“But as this season of my life comes to a close I am looking forward to what may come next.

“I am ready to have more time with my family and friends, explore new career possibilities, and find new ways to support Democrats and public policies to improve lives,” he wrote.

Parker said he was proud to have played a part in rolling back the tax cuts enacted during Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration as well as securing constitutional funding for public education.

He also served on the House elections committee where he battled Republican-sponsored legislation that he criticized for trying to suppress voter turnout.

Last year, Parker pulled out of the race for assistant House minority leader, and threw his support to Rep. Jason Probst.

Parker, who worked to help elect Democrats to the House in the 2020 election cycle, said he thought Probst would be able to help the party gain back ground it lost this year in Pittsburg, Newton, and Leavenworth.

At one point, it had been speculated that Parker, might run for minority leader against state Rep. Tom Sawyer but that campaign never materialized.

Parker was elected in 2016 when he beat Republican incumbent James Todd with 53% of the vote and won reelection last year with 57% of the vote.

The Overland Park district leans distinctly blue with President Joe Biden carrying the district with 58% of the vote in 2020 and U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier winning it with about 57% of the vote.

Gov. Laure Kelly carried it with about 60% of the vote in 2018 and Hillary Clinton won it with about 48% of the vote in 2016.

Parker and Bollier have formed a nonprofit group in an effort to engage voters and get them involved in their community.

They have formed Prairie Roots, a 501(c)(4) volunteer organization for community organizing and “deep canvassing” across Kansas to build a year-round operation.

Their group’s goal is to make “change at a local level by putting financial, strategic, and logistical resources into local organizers to reach low-turnout voters and gain support for candidates and ballot initiatives that champion progressive issues in the state.”

Parker will serve as the group’s executive director

Bollier serve as the nonprofit’s chair, along with board members state Rep. Gail Finney, Democratic National Committeewoman Usha Reddi  community organizer Aron Johnson, and Monica Vargas-Huertas, political and community outreach director for the United Food and Commercial Worker District Union Local 2.