Former Baldwin City Council member files for election to Kansas House
photo by: Contributed/AJ Stevens campaign
A former Baldwin City Council member has filed to run for the Kansas House of Representatives and the seat that will be left vacant by outgoing Rep. Eileen Horn, D-Lawrence.
A.J. Stevens, 49, told the Journal-World on Wednesday that he had always planned on running for the seat, but he thought Horn was performing well in the job and wanted to wait until she stepped down to throw his hat in the ring. Horn announced April 24 that she would not seek another term.
“It’s something that I feel matches my talents and experience really well,” Stevens said. “But more than anything right now, my motivation is making sure we’re taking care of people who need it.”
Stevens is the CEO of Baldwin City and Southern Railroad — created last year as a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of the nonprofit Midland Railway — which he said has been an economic boon for the local economy in recent years, both through its active railroad operations and as a tourist attraction.
He was appointed to the Baldwin City Council in July 2017 after the death of council member Steve Bauer and served out the unexpired term before opting not to seek reelection last fall.
Stevens said his focus on local economic issues through his work and time on the Baldwin City Council would serve him well in the Kansas Statehouse as state lawmakers are faced with how to recover from the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m worried about our county, our state, and our people as far as the shortfall we’ll have in revenue,” he said. “When I was on City Council, we had people in the community choosing between feeding their kids and paying their bills. I can’t imagine how much that’s increased since then.”
Stevens said he’s also a proponent of expanding access to Medicaid across Kansas — an issue that was a lightning rod during the 2020 legislative session before the pandemic forced lawmakers away from Topeka.
“I think this pandemic really shows that we have people who are underrepresented and don’t have an opportunity to get medical care, and it’s a necessity,” he said.
Stevens will run in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary for the 10th District seat against Brandon Holland, the son of current state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.
Tom Holland is the only other Lawrence-area representative currently facing a challenger in the 2020 election. Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, filed to run against Holland in August.
Sen. Marci Francisco, as well as Rep. Barbara Ballard, Rep. Boog Highberger and Rep. Mike Amyx — all Lawrence Democrats — have filed for reelection and are currently running unopposed.
The deadline to file for candidacy in the 2020 election is June 1.