Kansas Whip Race Stands At Four; New York To Get New Speaker

By John Celock

The race to be the next speaker of the New York Assembly is down to one contender, while the race to be the next majority whip of the Kansas state House is set at four candidates.

New York state Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) has secured the votes to succeed indicted Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) after Silver’s resignation takes effect late Monday night. In Kansas, a series of developments has set the field at four to succeed Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr. (R-Olathe) as majority whip. Ryckman announced his intention to step down as whip last week in order to focus on his role as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Kansas state Rep. Erin Davis (R-Olathe) formally entered the race through an email she sent to colleagues late Sunday afternoon. Davis used the email to talk about her commitment to the “success” of the GOP caucus and the skill set she would bring to the whip’s post. Davis is a family law attorney by profession.

“As you know, we have many difficult decisions ahead of us. The decisions we make this session will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on our state,” Davis said. “Consequently, I believe it is more important than ever to have a majority whip who is an effective communicator, coalition-builder and problem solver. I believe my negotiating and coalition-building experience in the public and private sector make me uniquely qualified for this position.”

Davis first joined the House in 2014 and is currently in the process of advocating a bill that would allow the creation of savings accounts for disabled children that would not impact their ability to qualify for Social Security disability benefits or Medicare. A conservative, Davis campaigned for GOP lawmakers across the state during the 2014 election.

Davis’ entry into the race sets the field at four to succeed Ryckman. Reps. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee), Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs) and Bill Sutton (R-Gardner) all entered the race within hours of Ryckman announcing his resignation on Thursday.

Kansas House Republicans are set to elect a whip on Wednesday after the House floor session.

Dove followed up to his announcement email Thursday with an emails to colleagues Monday afternoon discussing his candidacy. He touted his background in the business world, noting that small business owners are driving job creation in Kansas. He also wrote that he wanted to bridge geographic and ideological differences in the party as whip.

“To that end, I look forward to working with each member of our caucus, regardless of geographic or political division to insure continued success of our legislative agenda in the House,” Dove wrote.

Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) told The Celock Report that he has decided not to run for the whip’s post, while sources have confirmed to The Celock Report that Rep. Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater) is unlikely to run. Claeys said that he was planning to concentrate on his role as chairman of the House Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee and on the Appropriations and Commerce Committees.

“While I’m confident I am qualified and capable of serving in a leadership capacity, I believe my time and talents are of greater service to my caucus in the committee process,” Claeys said.

Claeys and Hoffman not running means that the next whip will hail from the northeastern part of the state. Davis, Hildabrand and Sutton all hail from Johnson County, while Dove is from Wyandotte County. Ryckman is from Johnson County.

Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco), the House majority caucus chairman, announced last week that he would not seek the whip’s post. Couture-Lovelady was defeated by Ryckman in a 2014 contest for majority whip.

In New York, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) announced Monday afternoon that she was ending her challenge to Heastie for the speakership. Nolan’s announcement came after Heastie had sewn up commitments from colleagues all but guaranteeing him the post.

At issue is when lawmakers will pick Silver’s successor. Assembly Democrats last week had determined that Majority Leader Joe Morelle (D-Rochester) would become interim speaker through Feb. 10, but some have urged for Heastie’s election to come on Tuesday. Nolan indicated on Monday that some have urged the Assembly to convene just after Silver’s resignation takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday night to formally elect Heastie.

Heastie, who chairs the Labor Committee, is set to become New York’s first African-American speaker. Nolan, the Education Committee chairwoman, would have been the state’s first woman speaker as well as the first woman to head a state legislative chamber in New York.