Republican Rep. Tom Cox on Monday announced he will seek the District 10 seat in the Kansas senate that’s been occupied by Mary Pilcher-Cook since 2009, setting up a potential primary contest in the summer of 2020.
Cox said he had been pondering a run for the seat for some time before he came to a final decision over the April break.
“I have had people approaching me about the idea since I got reelected [to the House] last year — a mix of constituents and elected leaders — and thought about it a lot,” he said. “As the session went on, I realized that a lot of the things we kept trying to get done in the House were getting blocked in the senate. And that as a resident of this senate district, I was being represented by someone who is one of the major blockers.”
In a statement accompanying his announcement, Cox categorized Pilcher-Cook as having been a barrier to moving important issues forward.
“Senator Pilcher-Cook has consistently voted against funding our public schools, supported destructive budget cuts and the failed 2012 tax experiment, and has been one of the leaders in blocking Medicaid Expansion,” Cox said. “She consistently refuses to participate in any public town halls and regularly refuses to meet with constituents at home and in Topeka.”
Pilcher-Cook shot back, saying that she has steadfastly stood by her principles, and accusing Cox of compromising on important values.
“During my service in the Legislature, I have consistently stood by my campaign promises, and supported the core Republican principles of limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, and the right to life,” Pilcher-Cook said. “At times, I have even stood alone to do what is right; for local control of our schools, for protecting our liberty, for responsible budgets, and for allowing people to keep more of their hard-earned money.”
She said Cox’s record makes him a better fit with the Democratic party than the Republican party.
“Reviewing his voting record, Rep. Cox should be running in the Democrat primary, as opposed to the Republican primary,” she said. “The Democrat party is the one he votes with most often.”
Cox said that, while he is seeking a move to the upper chamber in the 2020 elections, his focus for this year and for the 2020 legislative session will be on serving his District 17 constituents in the House. The district includes large parts of Shawnee and Lenexa as well as Lake Quivira.
“First and foremost, my focus remains on my House district and serving my term,” he said. “I’m not going to be out knocking doors or anything this summer. But I thought it was important to end the speculation and let people know of my plans.”
Cox was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating Democrat Helen Stoll 56.56% to 43.26%.
Pilcher-Cook earned her third term in the Senate in 2016 by defeating Democrat Vicki Hiatt 51.26% to 48.64%. Prior to coming to the Senate, she served in the House from 2001 to 2006.
Laura Smith-Everett announces plans to make another run at Cox’s House seat
Just hours after Cox announced he would not be seeking a third term in his House seat, his challenger from the last election cycle announced she will again run in District 17.
Democrat Laura Smith-Everett, an educator focused primarily on serving Title 1 schools, said she remains committed to the ideas she ran on in 2018.
“Ultra conservative Republicans in Topeka are out of touch with the citizens of House District 17,” she said. “I am confident that the people of our district support a shared vision of government that works for all of us and will vote to restore our state after nearly a decade of cuts in programs and services for Kansans.”
Smith-Everett came 330 votes shy of beating Cox in the 2018 general election in a race with 11,625 votes cast, taking 46.81% of the vote to Cox’s 49.65%. Libertarian Michael Kerner earned 3.46%.