Topeka Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, always had a steep climb in the Legislature.
But that climb will be much steeper when the legislative session starts in January.
A political massacre at the polls on Election Day drastically reduced the number of Democrats in the House.
Before the election, Republicans held a 76-49 advantage. When the session starts, Republicans will have a 92-33 majority, the largest GOP margin in the House in 56 years. The GOP already had a 31-9 advantage in the Senate.
“We’re going to have less of an impact in the governing process than we have had in the past,” Davis said.
Since 2002, through the Democratic administrations of Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, Democrats despite being in the minority in the House and Senate, have been able to team up with moderate Republicans to cobble together just enough votes to approve several major initiatives.
For example, last year they passed a budget and 1-cent increase in the state sales tax.
“For all practical purposes, in this state for the last eight years, Democrats have been in charge,” Parkinson said in a recent interview. “Democrats should be proud.”
But significant election losses on Nov. 2 have destroyed that coalition.
Still, Davis said he held out hope.
“It’s still important that we bring issues to the table and cause a debate. You never know what kind of coalitions are going to be formed on different issues,” he said.
School funding is often cited as an example of an issue that defies political affiliation and centers more on regionalism.
Despite the dramatic political losses, Davis faces no challenge among Democrats in his leadership role.
Both Democrats and Republicans meet Dec. 6 to elect their legislative leaders.
There is some jockeying going on in other leadership races among House Democrats.
The current assistant minority leader, Jim Ward of Wichita, faces a challenge from Tom Burroughs of Kansas City, and Barbara Ballard of Lawrence faces a challenge from Mike Slattery of Mission for caucus chair. There are also a couple of open positions such as agenda chair and policy chair up for grabs.
On the Republican side of the House, Speaker Mike O’Neal of Hutchinson is unchallenged. A three-candidate race has developed for House majority leader among Arlen Siegfreid of Olathe, Richard Carlson of St. Marys and John Grange of El Dorado. The current majority leader, Ray Merrick of Stilwell, is heading to the Senate to fill the unexpired term of Jeff Colyer, who was elected lieutenant governor.
Siegfreid is the current House speaker pro tem. At least two candidates, Anthony Brown of Eudora and Virgil Peck of Tyro, are running for that position, and several other names have been mentioned.