BREAKING: Sawyer not running again for Democratic leader

0
358

(Developing: Will update as warranted)

State Rep. Tom Sawyer has decided not to seek another term as the top Democrat in the Kansas House.

Sawyer, who has served two stints as the House minority leader and once as the majority leader, said it’s time to step aside and allow someone new to take the reins of the caucus.

Democratic state Rep. Vic Miller of Topeka has announced that he plans to run for the House leadership position that Sawyer is vacating.

Sawyer’s decision to leave the leadership post comes after an election cycle when Democrats were able to pick up one seat in the House although they faced Republican opposition with very deep pockets.

The House Republican caucus outspent its Democratic House counterpart about 3-to-1 this campaign season.

The Republican House Campaign Committee spent about $616,000 from July 22 to Oct. 27 while Kansans for a Democratic House spent about $200,113.

Overall, the Republican House Campaign Committee raised more than $900,000 this year and last compared to about $355,300 for the House Democrats.

Nevertheless, the Democrats won three seats in Johnson County while losing two other seats – one in Wyandotte County and another in Sedgwick County – where the election boundaries were drawn to favor Republicans.

The pickups will strengthen the party’s position to advocate for tax relief, expanding Medicaid, fully funding public education including special education and legalizing medicinal marijuana, among other issues,  Sawyer said.

“Upon deep reflection, I believe it is time for me to step back and allow the caucus to have a new leader who will lead us and Kansans towards achieving these important goals,” the Wichita lawmaker said in a statement.

“The next generation of Kansans are the future of Kansas – and consequently, the future of our caucus. I look forward to working with our new leadership in the next legislative sessions,” he said.

Sawyer served as majority leader from 1991 to 1992 when Democrats last controlled the House.

He later served again as the minority leader from 1993 to 1998 and won the position back when he defeated state Rep. Jim Ward in a leadership race in 2018.

Vic Miller

Miller, meanwhile, has a long resume of government service, including as a House member from 1979 to 1984 and again in 2017-18 and 2021-22.

He also served as a member of the Topeka City Council from 1985 to 1993, and a member of the Shawnee County Commission from 1993 to 1996 and again as a county commissioner from 2001 to 2011.

Miller represented Senate District 18 from 2019 to 2020 before deciding to return to the House in 2021.

Miller said he was proud of efforts to hold back the Republicans this election cycle.

“I am proud of the work we did in August, and then again in November. Twice we defied expectations and held the line against continued legislative extremism,” Miller said in his letter to the Democratic caucus.

“We have laid the groundwork for an immense opportunity in two years and it is my belief that I have the experience, time, and skill set to help us usher in a wave of Democrats in 2024 while pursuing a progressive, blue agenda through the Gov. Kelly’s next term,” Miller wrote.

“It would be my honor to have your support as we conquer the next battle, and again, defy expectations.”