A former Democratic legislator will be heading back to Topeka in the new year to fill the rest of Rep. Carolyn Bridges’ term.
Henry Helgerson, 63, was chosen by Democratic precinct representatives on a 4-2 vote to serve as the representative for District 83, which includes Eastborough and parts of east Wichita.
Helgerson was chosen over 31-year-old Chris Pumpelly, who was a spokesman for Paul Davis’ 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
The first two rounds of voting Tuesday night resulted in ties. Only after the six precinct voters present went into a caucus was the tie broken.
Helgerson will fill a vacancy left by Bridges, a former educator who announced her resignation from the House earlier this month, saying she was frustrated about lawmakers’ views on educators.
Bridges nominated Helgerson for the position, saying he “knows who to talk to and how to talk to people.”
Helgerson got teary-eyed in his nomination acceptance speech, saying he wanted to return to the Legislature because “the state that we are in right now is not the state” he loves.
“I remember a time when we used to do things … we reduced taxes and we balanced the budget, and we did all this in a bipartisan way,” he said. “I still have that dream that that can happen.”
I remember when … we reduced taxes and we balanced the budget, and we did all this in a bipartisan way. I still have that dream that that can happen.
Henry Helgerson, newly chosen representative for District 83
Helgerson served in the Kansas House from 1983 to 2000. He served in the Kansas Senate from 2003 to 2004.
In the House, he served as the ranking Democrat on the appropriations and education committees.
Even though the Legislature of 2016 will be radically different from the Legislature of 2000, he said he wanted to return because he’s “gotten fed up.”
“I’ve had several years of sitting on the sideline and … bitching and moaning about the way things are,” Helgerson said. “That’s why I’m running.”
He will serve through 2016. The seat will be up for re-election next November.
Tuesday night, Helgerson touted his ability to make deals across party – and legislative – lines.
“I know where the bodies are in both places,” he said.
The 2016 legislative session will begin Jan. 11.
House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, thanked Bridges for her service in a news release and said Helgerson was “well equipped to hit the ground running.”
Helgerson will serve on these House committees: Veterans, Military, Homeland Security, Transportation and Tax.