KU Statehouse Wire Service
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, who pushed for Medicare expansion in Kansas, announced Friday morning that he will not be seeking reelection.
Denning, an Overland Park Republican, said in a news release that he was tired of the partisanship in the Kansas Legislature.
“As a legislator, you are elected to represent your district. Unfortunately, I have seen too much hyper partisan gamesmanship, and we should not allow such partisanship to continue in this pattern,” Denning said in the release.
“My hope for the future is legislators find a way to work together, across the aisle and rotunda, and focus not on partisan wins, but rather on what will help Kansans," Denning said. "I think they will find much more can be accomplished working together than working against one another.”
Specifically, Denning said he was tired of the partisanship around Medicaid expansion.
During the legislative session, he appeared at pro-expansion events with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, which drew the eye of some fellow Republican legislators, including Senate President Susan Wagle.
“I’ve worked with governors, but as a majority leader, you have a different role in that you’re the leader of the Republican caucus,” Wagle told the Associated Press in March. “The caucus expects the majority leader to be carrying Republican values.”
Medicaid expansion has not been passed this session, but Denning said he’s still proud of his expansion efforts.
Demonstrators came to the Kansas State Capitol on May 3, 2019, dropping hundreds of faux-bloody papers intended to look like hospital bills. The bills were addressed to three state senators in an effort to push for Medicaid expansion.
“I am proud to have written a bipartisan plan to expand public and private health care access for Kansans this session, and even though partisan politics were played, I am still appreciative of the efforts made,” Denning said.
Denning was first elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2010. He joined the Kansas Senate in 2013, but he is now considered to be one of the most vulnerable Republican legislators in the statehouse.
Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Olathe, is running for Denning’s Senate seat, whose district went for Kelly, Hillary Clinton and Sharice Davids in recent years.
“Denning is easily the most vulnerable senator running for reelection,” Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas political scientist, told the Associated Press in March. “What could help Denning get reelected is a good story about him helping get Medicaid expansion passed that makes it look like he’s doing something moderate and that he’s working with a Democratic governor who won the district that he is running in.”
Denning, a health care administrator, opposed Medicaid expansion just last year. But now, he said he plans to focus on his job and his family
“For nearly 10 years I have served the people of Kansas in the House and Senate, and I have decided that now is the time I return my focus to my health care employer and to my wife, Marearl,” Denning said.