State Rep. Mark Kahrs announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election and will leave the House of Representatives when his term expires in January.
Kahrs is a two-term representative from east Wichita.
Kahrs cited business and family obligations as his main reason for deciding to leave the Kansas Legislature. He and his wife, Sherri, have three daughters. “I really need to take more time for business, the girls, life,” Kahrs said.
I really need to take more time for business, the girls, life.
State Rep. Mark Kahrs
During his legislative tenure, Kahrs has been known as one of the more conservative voices in the Legislature, advocating for tax cuts, abortion restrictions and religion.
His signature achievement as chairman of the Elections Committee was a bill to move city and school board elections from the spring to the fall.
The bill was a priority for Republicans and conservatives who felt their local candidates were being hurt by low turnouts in the spring elections.
Kahrs also has been an advocate for preserving Gov. Sam Brownback’s business tax cuts and for “religious freedom” legislation. He was a strong supporter of a bill passed this year allowing campus religious groups to exclude students who don’t hew to the group’s beliefs.
Kahrs said he will focus his political energy for now serving on the Republican National Committee. He was elected as Kansas’ national committeeman in February and will take office July 22, the day after the end of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Kahrs will be at the convention as an elected delegate from Kansas.
Kahrs’ departure leaves an open seat in District 87 in east Wichita. He said he knows of no Republicans currently contemplating a run there.
Signaling potential candidates of the opening is “kind of the reason I announced early,” he said.
The problem with not having Kahrs in there is you can’t run against Brownback.
Lee Kinch, Kansas Democratic Party chairman
Both parties acknowledge the district favors Republicans.
However, state Democratic Party Chairman Lee Kinch said the party had been contacted by two Democrats who were interested in running there before Kahrs announced he was leaving.
Neither Kinch nor Rep. Jim Ward, who has also been working with the potential candidates, would identify them, although Ward said both would be “quality candidates.”
With the state facing deep budget problems and Brownback’s popularity on the decline, Democrats are hoping to pick up seats from Republicans who have been linked to the governor’s policies.
From the Democrats’ perspective, “The problem with not having Kahrs in there is you can’t run against Brownback,” Kinch said. “But the issues are going to be the same.”
State Republican Chairman Kelly Arnold said although no potential Republican candidates have yet been identified, he’s not too worried. He thinks candidates will emerge as news of Kahrs’ departure filters out to Republican circles.
“The district he lives in is a very good district for the Republican Party and has a lot of quality people that have been involved in party politics in the past,” Arnold said. “We believe there will be a great replacement for him at some point that will come forward.”