Kansas lawmakers honor women in politics as more line up for 2018 elections

The Lawrence Journal-World recently reported ceremonies by Kansas lawmakers honor women in politics.

More women have lined-up to run for the legislature in 2018 than in any previous year.

But, State Representative Gail Finney (D-Wichita), noted that all of the key leadership positions in the Kansas House are filled by men. 

At a time when more women are getting actively engaged in state and local politics, Kansas lawmakers on Monday will honor a number of groundbreaking Kansas political women, many of whom are still serving in the Legislature.

“We’re going to be recognizing all the elected women in the state of Kansas, particularly those that are serving now, and recognizing those that have come before us,” Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, said in an interview.

Although Kansas was among the first states to give women the right to vote when it passed a state constitutional amendment in 1912, eight years before ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, women have been slow to gain political power within the Legislature, particularly women of color.

Among those who will be recognized with a ceremonial resolution Monday are Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, who is the first woman to hold the top leadership position in either chamber.

Other notables include Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, the first African-American woman elected to the Kansas House without having been appointed first; Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, the first African-American woman elected to the Kansas Senate; and Rep. Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita, the first Native American woman elected to the House.

Also being mentioned are former Rep. Delia Garcia, a Wichita Democrat who stepped down in 2010, who was the first Hispanic woman elected to the House; and former Rep. Donna Whiteman, R-Hutchinson, who in 1991 became the first woman to serve as majority leader in the Kansas House.

Currently, though, women hold only 32 of the 125 seats in the Kansas House, or 26 percent. Their numbers are slightly stronger in the Senate, where they hold 15 out of 40 seats, or 38 percent.

Among key leadership positions, however, both chambers are dominated by men, particularly in the House.

“It is exclusively male,” Finney said. “I’m hoping this time around, particularly in the House on the minority side, that we have a female run for every position. I would love to see that. I’m trying to encourage females to run for every position. And I think it’s something that we need to continue to do throughout the state.”

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