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Democratic lawmaker launches bid for seat held by Kansas Senate GOP leader Denning

Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Olathe
Rep. Cindy Holscher, D-Olathe

The Kansas Senate Republican leader is drawing a Democratic opponent who’s taking aim at his stance on Medicaid expansion more than a year before the first ballots are cast.

Rep. Cindy Holscher, of Olathe, says she will run for Majority Leader Jim Denning’s seat. The potential 2020 match-up could test whether Johnson County is moving left and becoming more fertile ground for Democrats.

“Tens of thousands of Kansans desperately need medical care, and the Senator has refused to move forward on expansion, which has passed in the House this year and was built into the Governor’s budget,” Holscher said in a statement.

The second-term Kansas House member announced her candidacy late Wednesday night, hours after Denning, of Overland Park, and other Republican lawmakers met with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to discuss expansion. Those talks broke down after about an hour over a dispute on whether to advance the legislation this year.

Denning was first elected to the Senate in 2012 and won re-election in 2016 with 52.7 percent of the vote. A spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, Denning said that Republicans had committed to Kelly that they could have an expansion bill ready for debate in January 2020, but that Kelly didn’t want to wait.

“Governor Kelly wants Medicaid expansion so bad in her first year that she is willing to get it bad,” he said in a statement.