Overland Park Sen. Jim Denning will be serving in a prominent role when the Kansas legislature convenes for what is sure to be a difficult 2017 session next month.
The Senate Republican caucus on Monday elected Denning as the new Senate Majority Leader, the number three position in that chamber behind Senate President Susan Wagle, who won reelection after fending off a challenge from Ty Masterson, and Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine.
Denning was the only incumbent Republican whose district lies primarily in the Blue Valley area to survive the 2016 election cycle, and faced a serious challenge from Democrat Don McGuire in the general. Denning won election to his second term in the Senate by defeating McGuire 53-47.
Though he supported Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cut program in 2012 as a member of the House, he has in recent years disavowed parts of the bill, specifically the LLC loophole that allows more than 300,000 Kansas business owners to avoid paying income tax. An accountant by trade, he is seen by many as a budget expert who could be crucial to addressing the state’s mounting budget problems. But his voting record in favor of a number of bills opposed by public education advocates led him to be opposed by local advocacy group Stand Up Blue Valley in the election.
In a candidate forum with McGuire hosted by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce in October, Denning pointed to declines in the agriculture and oil sectors as among the primary drivers behind the state’s fiscal crisis, an argument that has been frequently repeated by Brownback and his allies.