Tom Bickimer, a businessman who founded the homebuilding company Bickimer Homes with his wife Mary more than three decades ago, announced on Wednesday that he will run as a Republican for the District 21 Kansas Senate seat in 2020.
Bickimer’s entry into the race sets up an expected contest against incumbent Sen. Dinah Sykes. Sykes was first elected to the seat in 2016 after defeating incumbent Sen. Greg Smith in the Republican primary, and then defeating Democratic nominee Logan Heley in the general election.
But two years after taking office, Sykes was among the moderate Republican statehouse officials from Johnson County to switch parties, saying that they no longer felt like that had a place in the Kansas Republican Party.
In his campaign announcement, Bickimer stressed his business background, comparing the issues that face the legislature to the challenges of running a small business and designing homes.
“I’ve spent my entire business career problem-solving the challenges that surround the construction of homes that will embody the dreams of the families we build for,” he said in a video. “Maybe I am new to the political game, but it seems to me that I can bring something of greater value to Topeka, something other than the same old political rhetoric that results in nothing ever getting done.”
Asked for comment on Bickimer’s entry into the race, Sykes indicated she had expected to draw a challenger.
“I’m not surprised to draw a Republican challenger,” Sykes said. “I’ve worked hard for the last three years moving us forward from the failed policies of former Gov. Brownback. The last thing District 21 and our state needs is someone who will push us backwards.”
This is Bickimer’s first run for elected office. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas. Tom and Mary have six children, and served as foster parents for a time.
The 2020 cycle for statehouse seats has seen a relatively high level of activity more than a year before the election. Democratic Rep. Cindy Holscher announced in April that she was running for the District 8 seat occupied by Republican Sen. Majority Leader Jim Denning.
Republican Rep. Tom Cox announced in May he would seek the District 10 seat occupied by Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, which would set up a contested primary if Pilcher-Cook files for re-election. Shawnee City Councilwoman Lindsey Constance announced shortly thereafter that she would seek the seat as a Democrat.