Elections

Kansas House: First openly gay members win, helping Dems cut into Republican control

Democratic candidates Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz became the first openly LGBTQ members of the Kansas House of Representatives by defeating Republican rivals Tuesday.

During his campaign for the 30th District seat, Woodard of Lenexa said he favored reducing or eliminating sales taxes on food, expanding Medicaid and investing in education.

He defeated Wendy Bingesser despite her endorsement by the incumbent Rep. Randy Powell, who has been one of the House’s most conservative members.

Woodard’s election comes despite his two citations for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Ruiz, a Shawnee resident, was a reluctant candidate in the 23rd District contest against moderate Republican Linda Gallagher but considered her campaign part of a rainbow wave.

“The groundbreaking victories are welcome in a state where LGBTQ people are severely underrepresented in government,” said a release from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, noting victories by Woodard, Ruiz and Sharice Davids, who was elected to Congress.

Their victories, along with other wins by Democrats in key Kansas City area districts, cut into Republicans’ control of the Kansas House of Representatives.

25th District: Westwood Democrat Rui Xu unexpectedly and narrowly ousted established moderate Republican Melissa Rooker of Fairway. He campaigned by criticizing corporate influence in politics.

Xu had said President Donald Trump’s election prompted him to seek office. The 29-year-old Chinese immigrant became a citizen of the United States when he was in the seventh grade.

29th District: Democrat Brett Parker held onto this seat by holding off its previous occupant, Republican James Todd. Parker, who was critical of Kris Kobach, had ousted Todd in 2016 and won re-election Tuesday.

16th District: Taxes figured in the campaign that retained incumbent Democrat Cindy Holscher of Overland Park. She had helped lead a bipartisan women’s caucus that pushed to overturn Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. She defeated Lenexa Republican Sue Huff, a substitute teacher who criticized tax increases.

15th District: Republican John Toplikar defeated Democrat Chris Haulmark for a return to the Kansas House of Representatives after a 15-year absence. The Olathe resident served from 1993 to 2003 before serving as a Johnson County commissioner and after a stint on the Olathe City Council.

Haulmark vied to become the first deaf legislator in the nation in either state or national office.

26th District: Republican Adam Thomas overcame a felony charge that focused on his residency claims during the campaign. He defeated Olathe Democrat Deann Mitchell.

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