House Republicans nominate Hawkins, Croft to lead chamber for next two legislative sessions

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TOPEKA — Kansas House Republicans nominated a leadership team Monday described as a bulwark of conservatism against the second term of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins of Wichita, elected to the House in 2012 and a persistent critic of Kelly, was handed the top job of House speaker without opposition during the GOP-only caucus meeting at the Capitol. Once confirmed in January by the full House, he would hold that position for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions.

“Truly the philosophy of our leadership is going to be: We believe in the people. We believe in the people of Kansas to make the best decisions on how to spend their money — not the state,” said Hawkins, who anticipated working closely with leaders of the Republican-dominated Kansas Senate. “You’ll see conservative proposals consistently come out.”

Hawkins said House GOP members would push to reform tax, education, water, abortion and election integrity policy. He said he had little House interest in revisiting the state’s new sports gambling law, but there would be discussion about options for improving wages of people holding state elective offices.

He said there would be opportunities to collaborate with the Kelly administration as well as instances in which the Legislature and Kelly “vehemently disagreed.” He wouldn’t be surprised if the House and Senate grappled during the next four years with a series of vetoes by Kelly.

Meanwhile, Overland Park Rep. Chris Croft, a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, was nominated by his Republican peers to serve as House majority leader. Croft defeated a pair of House rivals: Rep. Susan Humphries of Wichita and Rep. Sean Tarwater of Stilwell.

A second ballot for majority leader was required because none of the three obtained a majority in the first round. The initial roll call was Croft, 41; Tarwater, 25; and Humphries, 17. Humphries was dropped and the recount gave Croft a majority — 52-31 — among the 83 Republicans participating in the House leadership vote.

After the Republican votes were counted, Tarwater made a successful motion to record the outcome as unanimous for Croft.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican who served six years as House speaker, didn’t seek reelection in 2022. Hawkins easily won reelection in November and conducted a campaign to avoid a GOP showdown over selection of the replacement for Ryckman.

Hawkins would be paired with Senate President Ty Masterson, also of Wichita. The Kansas Senate wasn’t on the ballot this year, meaning the Senate’s leadership would remain unaltered until after the 2024 election.

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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