A resigning state lawmaker from Mulvane is supporting his son-in-law’s bid to replace him this week in a selection process controlled by Republicans.
Rep. Pete DeGraaf plans to resign at the end of May. He announced his decision on the House floor on May 12, citing difficulties from Parkinson’s disease.
That same day, his son-in-law Jesse Burris filed paperwork with the Kansas secretary of state declaring his candidacy and appointing DeGraaf as his campaign treasurer. DeGraaf did not announce then that Burris would seek the position; The Eagle discovered the document this weekend.
Burris, who is married to DeGraaf’s daughter Anneke, did not respond to calls on Sunday and Monday.
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In an interview Monday, DeGraaf said Burris would follow him in his political philosophy and would be a strong Republican and conservative.
DeGraaf’s replacement will be chosen by Republican precinct committeemen and committeewomen in House District 82. They will meet to make their selection at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Derby Public Library. DeGraaf’s resignation becomes official on May 31, and his replacement will assume office immediately after that.
Burris, an attorney, works in Topeka for the Kansas secretary of state. DeGraaf said Burris has been living part time in Mulvane. House District 82, which sits in the southeast corner of Sedgwick County, includes south Derby and Mulvane.
“He’s used our home as his permanent address since they got married and has actually lived with us, went out, had a baby and came back to live with us. And they actually come back every weekend. So our home is their home,” DeGraaf said.
The address on Burris’ voter registration and campaign form matches DeGraaf’s address.
If Burris is selected, he intends to fully move in to the 4.5-acre farmstead in Mulvane, DeGraaf said, adding it will be a multigenerational home.
“The real reason is I need extra help and I can’t manage that property on my own, and Anneke loves the property,” DeGraaf said.
Burris, 35, has been an attorney in Kansas since 2015, when he graduated from Washburn University School of Law in Topeka.
He worked for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and then the secretary of state, DeGraaf said.
In his resignation letter, DeGraaf highlighted the Legislature’s work to advance anti-abortion legislation and allowing Kansans to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
DeGraaf, who has been in the Legislature since 2008, announced he had Parkinson’s disease in 2015. He said complications from the disease now lead him to think he needs to step down.
“My health is such that I’m not here but a couple hours a day. And if I’m here in the building, I’ll take a nap in my office. I have a mat that I sleep on, and it’s not uncommon for me to take two or three naps a day,” DeGraaf said.
“So it’s time. My neurologist made it very clear: It’s time to reduce the stress.”