Two-term Democratic Rep. Cindy Holscher announced Wednesday night that she plans to run for the District 8 Senate seat occupied by Majority Leader Jim Denning since 2013.
Holscher had initially planned to make the announcement today at a previously planned birthday party and fundraiser. But after Denning and other Republican legislative leaders’ meeting with Gov. Laura Kelly on Medicaid expansion Wednesday — a meeting that ended just a hour into a planned four hour session after the parties came to an impasse — Holscher said she was compelled to make her decision public a day sooner.
She categorized Denning as obstructing a Senate vote on Medicaid expansion, which passed the House earlier this year.
“Today in a meeting with the Governor, Senator Denning reaffirmed that while over 75 percent of Kansans support Medicaid Expansion, he will not support efforts to pass the bill and showed no interest in negotiating a package that would take place this year,” Holscher said in a release. “Tens of thousands of Kansans desperately need medical care, and the Senator has refused to move forward on expansion.”
In a statement released after the meeting with Kelly, Denning indicated that Republicans hoped to come up with a version of Medicaid expansion different than the one Kelly is pushing to pass this legislative session and would be prepared to take up the issue next session.
“We committed to Governor Kelly on working from May through December to have a Medicaid expansion bill ready and debated in January when we return for session,” Denning said. “Governor Kelly had no interest in waiting for a better bill…Governor Kelly wants Medicaid expansion so bad in her first year that she is willing to get it bad.”
Holscher said she believes the state needs to move past the policies of the Brownback years, and focus on creating a stable environment for state finances and fully funding K-12 schools.
“Education and fiscal stability are very important,” Holscher said. “They have been a struggle for our current senator.”
On Thursday afternoon, Denning released a statement responding to Holscher’s announcement, pointing to a variety of policies he had promoted during his time in Topeka, including his work to fix the “Brownback tax plan loophole during the 2017 legislative session.”
“Leadership can be challenging and leaders at times have to make decisions that aren’t necessarily popular,” Denning said. “Over her short time in Topeka, Rep. Holscher has shown that she’s only willing to make decisions that are politically popular and favorable at the time. Rep. Holscher hasn’t shown a willingness to lead, but rather [to] follow the current trends.”
Although she has kicked off her candidacy for the state Senate, Holscher said she won’t be actively campaigning out of the gate considering the vote won’t occur until November 2020.
“I’m always out there in the community, and that will continue, but I don’t think people want candidates knocking doors this early, especially because we have so many other local races still to come this year,” she said. “But starting early does have benefits, and it gives you more than ample time for fundraising.”