Wilk comes up short in quest for speaker’s post
By Lansing State Rep. Kenny Wilk's figuring, he had 41 solid votes coming his way in the second round of balloting in his quest to become speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives against Rep. Melvin Neufeld.
What Wilk didn't figure on was the second ballot becoming a "moderate vs. conservative" battle with Republican House conservatives who had committed to voting for him leaving him high and dry.
But that's how a disappointed Wilk is handicapping his quest for speaker in retrospect.
"I thought I had the vote on second ballot against Melvin," Wilk said Wednesday, Dec. 6, two days after Neufeld won on the second ballot in the race for speaker.
It took 40 votes in the 78-member House Republican caucus to win the speaker's race. On the first ballot, Neufeld, of Ingalls, received 29 votes, Wilk got 25, and Rep. Mike O'Neal of Hutchinson received 24.
By rule, O'Neal was dropped from consideration setting up a race between Wilk and Neufeld.
Wilk thought he had it in the bag.
"I had 41 commitments on the second ballot - people who told me they'd vote for me against Neufeld on the second ballot," Wilk said.
"That's not what happened."
Wilk received 31 votes to Neufeld's 47 votes, giving Neufeld the most powerful post in the Kansas House the next two years.
"It became a pure moderate vs. conservative battle," Wilk said. "I'm pretty conservative, but I got stuck with a 'moderate' label in this race. Nothing else mattered - just the label."
Wilk said he had been politicking for the speaker's post for most of the past two years, traveling the state to help current Republican House members and campaigning for Republicans running for the House.
Monday's vote marked the second time Wilk fell short in his quest for speaker - he lost a race in 2002 for the top House spot. It also will be the last time, he said.
"I'll leave that to someone else now," he said.
He said he harbored no ill will against Neufeld and thought the feeling was mutual.
The two are scheduled to meet Friday, to talk about potential committee assignments for Wilk in the upcoming session of the Legislature, which convenes Jan. 8 in Topeka.
Wilk, who has been in the House since 1993, was philosophical about his defeat, noting the inexact science of politics.
"In politics, it takes a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. It looks like Lady Luck wasn't smiling on me this time around," he said.