Speaker files for re-election, says running never in doubt

TOPEKA — Speaker Mike O'Neal filed Friday for re-election to the Kansas House, undeterred by a past ethics inquiry and successful efforts this year by GOP moderates to pass a tax increase over his opposition.

O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, one of the House's most senior members, is seeking his 14th term. He filed paperwork and paid a $105 fee to guarantee himself a spot on the Aug. 3 primary ballot.

Critics have questioned for weeks whether O'Neal would run again, citing his political setbacks. They've also pointed to an investigation Democrats forced the House to conduct after O'Neal, an attorney, sued the state on behalf of businesses and other private clients over a 2009 budget-balancing maneuver.

But a special committee dropped Democrats' misconduct complaint against O'Neal and said he violated no laws or legislative rules. O'Neal and his chief of staff have dismissed talk that he wouldn't seek re-election.

"I've spent 30-some years in a law practice dealing with conflict. I've dealt with conflict in the Legislature," O'Neal said. "I fully intend — never had any question but — that I would run again and fully expect to be back where I am now."

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said O'Neal will face questions from voters about the lawsuit he filed against the state. Under House rules, the chamber was required to investigate Democrats' allegations once Davis and others filed a complaint.

O'Neal faces no opposition in the GOP primary so far for the seat he has held since 1985. The only Democrat to have filed in his district is Jack Mace, a substitute teacher and former trainer at the state prison in Hutchinson.