Johnson County’s Ray Merrick emerged from a three-way race to become Kansas House speaker Monday.
Merrick defeated fellow Johnson County lawmakers Arlen Siegfried and Lance Kinzer to take the helm of the House.
“The times in which we live demand our 2013 agenda to be aggressive to include education, tax and judicial selection along with budget reform,’ said Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican who spoke in support of Merrick.
“Ray Merrick embodies the skills we need to tackle the challenges before us today and prepare for those that await us tomorrow.”
Merrick, 73, was only available for abbreviated comments following the vote.
He is currently completing the unexpired state Senate term of current Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, and in November was elected to a term in the House.
The conservative Republican, who is active in the American Legislative Exchange Council, stressed that he had no specific agenda as he steers the direction of the House. He said his only agenda is to guide the Republican Party.
The exchange council has been accused of being a vehicle for corporations to write laws in closed door meetings away from the state capitol and out of the public spotlight. Supporters say it is a research tool that allows legislators to talk with colleagues from around the country and companies that do business in their state.
Merrick succeeds Rep. Mike O’Neal, the Republican lawmaker from Hutchinson who left public office to lead the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
House Republicans also elected Jene Vickrey of Louisburg as majority leader. He served last session as speaker pro tem and defeated Marc Rhoades of Newton, who served the past two years as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Democrats re-elected Anthony Hensley of Topeka as Senate minority leader and Paul Davis of Lawrence as House minority leader.