Kansas Rep. Gail Finney remembered as champion for Wichita, warrior for justice

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TOPEKA — Rep. Gail Finney’s colleagues mourned her death Saturday and remembered the Wichita Democrat as a fierce advocate for child welfare reform, a warrior for justice, a champion for her community, and a shining example of a public servant.

Finney’s death was announced by fellow Democrats on social media. She was 63.

“Kansas lost a warrior today,” said Gov. Laura Kelly. “No one fought harder for her constituents, for her community, for justice and equity.”

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer described Finney as “a real fighter,” noting that she continued to serve in the Legislature this past session while recovering from a kidney transplant. Sawyer, who is also a Wichita Democrat, said Finney’s “love for Wichita knew no bounds.”

“Finney was a shining example of a public servant,” Sawyer said. “Her ongoing work to ensure her community’s proper representation in Topeka reflected an admirable commitment to her neighbors and community.”

Finney had served in the House since 2009 and did not file for reelection this year. She was a member of committees that deal with criminal justice reform, financial institutions, rural development, and insurance and pensions.

Finney fought for foster care reforms, decriminalizing marijuana, and improved accounting for maternal deaths.

“My heart is breaking,” said Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican who serves as chairwoman of the Children and Seniors Committee. “Rep. Finney was a fierce advocate for child welfare issues and a foster parent herself.”

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat, said Finney was “whip-smart, funny and tough,” and “a shining example of constituent advocacy.”

Finney took on Evergy after the utility giant replaced wooden poles directly in front of his constituents’ homes with massive metal ones, some five feet wide and 105 feet tall. Finney’s public scrutiny of the “big ass poles,” as she called them, led Evergy to renegotiate with property owners and make other investments in Finney’s district.

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, said Finney championed her community and stood up for those who were overlooked in the legislative process.

“She was a wonderful colleague to all, a cherished friend to many, and an incomparable advocate for our state,” Sykes said.

Sen. Jeff Pittman, a Leavenworth Democrat who served with Finney in the House for four years, said Finney “understood what it meant to persevere through adversity.”

“I enjoyed working with her to make the world a more just place and will miss her,” Pittman said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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