Kansas Sen. Julia Lynn to retire from Legislature, asks to drop off ballot

Frustration on both sides of the aisle boiled over last week during a meeting of the Special Committee on Economic Recovery, chaired by Sen. Julia Lynn. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas Sen. Julie Lynn announced Tuesday she will retire from the Legislature to care for her ailing sister, and asked to remove her name from the November ballot.

The Olathe Republican has served in the Legislature since 2006 and was chairwoman of the Commerce Committee for the past eight years.

“Due to personal, family health reasons and the need to care for my sister’s severely declining health, I have asked for my name to be removed from the ballot as the Republican nominee for state Senate in District 9,” Lynn said in a statement. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve you. I am eternally grateful for your support and allowing me to serve as your state senator.”

Kansas law limits the circumstances that allow a candidate to withdraw from the general election ballot, and Tuesday was the deadline to request to be removed from the ballot. Lynn’s request caught Republicans by surprise, and raised the prospect that Democrats could win the seat.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, empathized with her colleague. Wagle’s daughter died in March after a battle with multiple myeloma.

“Senator Lynn has always been dedicated to her family, and I respect her decision to place them first during this time of hardship,” Wagle said. “Having recently lost a daughter to cancer, I know she will not regret fully committing her time to her sister and to the rest of her family.”

Lynn plans to finish her term, serving on interim committees for the remainder of the calendar year. Her departure from the ballot will require Republican leaders in the Johnson County district to choose a replacement.

Stacey Knoell, who has experience as an educator in public schools, is the Democratic nominee for the Johnson County district.

In addition to overseeing the Commerce Committee, Lynn is chairwoman of the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the 2020 Special Committee on Economic Recovery. She also served on panels for tax, judiciary and utilities.

Lynn’s influence as the commerce chairwoman was the subject of an investigative report last year by Gannett Kansas, which raised questions about conflicts of interest. Lynn worked for Allied Global Services, which won $13 million in contracts from the Kansas Department of Commerce under Republican administrations.

The company fired Lynn in response to questions for the story. She referred to the report by Tim Carpenter, now the senior reporter for the Kansas Reflector, as a “witch hunt.”

The administration of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly terminated no-bid contracts that had been awarded to Allied Global Services.