Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2006

House caucus elects leadership team

Lack of diversity in choices has representatives on both sides taking notice

December 7, 2006


— Privately, some Democrats were snickering at the makeup of the House Republican leadership team.

The House Republican caucus earlier this week elected an all-male, all-white, all-conservative and mostly rural senior citizen bunch to lead the chamber and its caucus.

The lack of a female face in the majority party's House leadership picture didn't escape the notice of even some Republicans.

"The Legislature is made up of men and women, and Democrats always seem to have women in their leadership, so I would hope that Republicans would have them in the future," said state Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff, R-Wichita, who has been in the Legislature 22 years.

The GOP leadership team includes Speaker Melvin Neufeld, 66, a farmer from Ingalls; Majority Leader Ray Merrick, 67, a business owner from Stilwell; Speaker Pro Tem Don Dahl, 61, retired of the Navy from Hillsboro; and caucus chairman Dick Kelsey, 60, of Goddard. The two youngest members of the team are Majority Whip Rob Olson, 37, of Olathe, and assistant Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, 47, of Louisburg.

Those candidates were elected by the 78-member House Republican caucus Monday. The only woman to run for a leadership job was Lana Gordon, of Topeka, and she was defeated by Vickrey, 59-18, with one not voting.

Meanwhile, the 47-member House Democratic caucus returned all of its previous leaders, which includes three men and two women, and one of those women, Lawrence Democrat Barbara Ballard, is black. In addition, a new member of the House Democratic leadership team is Paul Davis, of Lawrence, who was elected unopposed as policy chairman to replace Nancy Kirk, who retired from the Legislature. Geographically, the Democratic leaders hail from Greensburg, Wichita, Hays, Lawrence and Leavenworth.

Pottorff, who has worked on national committees trying to increase the number of women in politics, said she was also bothered by some of the nominating speeches made during the GOP caucus meeting.

"They kept giving speeches that this man has this and this man has that. It was like they were rubbing it in," she said. "They should have referred to them as candidates."

Pottorff didn't run for a leadership position because, she said, she was too moderate for the conservative majority in the caucus.

New Speaker Neufeld said Wednesday he was concerned "that we didn't have women who were comfortable coming forward" in the leadership contests.

Neufeld, who will appoint committee chairpeople soon, said he'll "make every effort on balance of geography, philosophy and gender" when placing lawmakers in committee leadership positions.


captain_poindexter 11 years, 3 months ago

this is unreal.

Gordon was the ONLY woman republican to run for a leadership position. You can't force women to run for leadership simply for 'diversity.'

If Pottorff is so upset by this, why the hell didn't she run?

unreal. cry cry cry.

coldandhot 11 years, 3 months ago

Another slow news day for Rothschild. You would think that the Journal World would find a writer who doesn't write always look to paint conservatives in a bad light. There are some good conservatives, but apparently not in Scott's eyes.

The only articles we ever see are negative about conservatives and positive about ultra liberals who are proposing stuff that never gets passed.

biasedmedia 11 years, 3 months ago

compare this simple story to the same article in the Star, Cap Journal and other AP syndicates... what a joke. Why does Lawrence always have to twist every story to be about the "liberal" -esqueness of everything? Try just once in a while to report news, not opinions. Why is this "diversity" crap news? Wow...

Frank Smith 11 years, 3 months ago

The Republicans passed over a bright, able candidate for Speaker (Wilks) who would have guaranteed a diverse viewpoint, if not a diverse membership in House leadership. Instead, they picked an authoritarian, log-rolling, special-interest bootlicking low-life. He's the legislator most remembered for calling the wife of a Republican colleague to tell her that her husband, who had the temerity to differ on issues with Neufeld, was having an affair.

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