(Updated to include reaction from Congressan Ron Estes, former Gov. Jeff Colyer and House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer).
Republican state Rep. Ron Howard of Wichita died on Tuesday after an illness. He was 67.
Howard, a conservative, had been in the Legislature since 2019 after upsetting Democratic incumbent Steve Crum for the House District 98 seat.
Dave DePue, the state minister for the Kansas Capitol Commision, confirmed Howard’s passing although word had already started circulating through the legislative ranks.
“We’ve had lots of folks praying for him,” DePue said.
Howard had persevered through illness, showing up on the last day of this year’s legislative session to cast votes to override the governor’s veto of key bills.
He also was remembered for making it to the Capitol this year to cast a vote for the constitutional amendent on abortion.
In his first year in the Legislature, Howard made it to the chamber hours after being released from the hospital so he could vote to override the governor’s veto of a tax bill.
“I’m in Topeka today for the final day of the legislative session. As many of you know, I was only released from the hospital yesterday afternoon following my surgery,” he posted.
“The Kansas House has important work to do, and the people of the 98th District elected me to do it,” he wrote.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. praised Howard for his inner strength in fighting his illness.
“Ron fought the good fight, showing strength in his efforts to recover and in his commitment to serve his district,” Ryckman said.
“Even during the most difficult moments of his illness, he made sure his constituents were represented on critical issues like taxes and Value Them Both,” he said.
“Ron will be remembered for that.”
Republican Congressman Ron Estes and his wife – a legislative colleague of Howard’s – expressed his sympathy for the lawmaker’s death.
“Susan and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of State Rep. Ron Howard,” Estes said in a post on Twitter.
“Ron worked hard for the people of Kansas during his tenure in the statehouse, even when he struggled with his health.”
Former Gov. Jeff Colyer and his wife also expressed sorrow in a social media post.
“Many Kansans lost a great friend yesterday,” Colyer said on Twitter.
“Ron Howard served our state honorably by providing a voice for many. Ruth and I are continuing to pray for his family and all lives touched by Ron.”
House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer also sent condolences.
“Rep. Ron Howard was a dedicated colleague who represented his district with tenacity and a can-do spirit, which was especially evident this past legislative session,” Sawyer said in a statement.
“”Rep. Howard understood the need to be present in the legislature for his constituents and he powered through health complications to ensure Kansans in his district had a voice in Topeka,” Sawyer said.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt also mourned Howard’s loss.
“We will miss Rep. Ron Howard,” Schmidt said in a Facebook post.
“Ron was a proud and dedicated public servant. I extend condolences to his family and friends,” he said.
Howard proudly posted on Facebook his votes for limiting abortion and supporting gun rights.
The first bill he sponsored? Legislation requiring electronic prescriptions for certain controlled substances.
Howard was elected in 2018 when he defeated Crum with 51% of the vote in a district that covers parts of Haysville, Oaklawn and south central Wichita.
Crum became so enraged with Howard’s votes in the Legislature that he promised to run against the Republican again in 2020, but the results turned out even better for the incumbent.
Howard beat Crum again in 2020, this time defeating the Democrat with 57% of the vote in a district won by President Donald Trump with 60% of the vote and U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall with 54% of the vote.
As a member of the House, Howard served on the Social Services Budget Committee, the Health and Human Services Committee as well as the Veterans and Military and Local Government committees.
When he ran for office, Howard had the support of the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Kansans for Life.
He is survived by his amazing wife, Terri; two sons; a daughter; four brothers; one sister; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.