Edward Hammond, the former president of Fort Hays State University, filed to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination in the Kansas House seat representing Hays. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Former Fort Hays State University president Edward Hammond filed Friday as a candidate for Kansas House in anticipation of challenging Republican incumbent Barb Wasinger.
Hammond, who led Fort Hays State for nearly 28 years and retired from the university’s teaching faculty in 2021, made himself an official candidate in the 111th District one week before the filing deadline for the Kansas Legislature.
He said he had no intention of seeking political office until prompted by Wasinger’s voting record on health, education and transportation issues and an evaluation of the impact of those decisions on Hays. The Republican was elected to the Kansas House in 2018 and has served on a higher education, tax and financial institutions committees.
“As I continued to watch the votes being made by our current district representative, many of which ignore the critical needs of the district, I felt I had a responsibility to the communities in our area,” Hammond said.
He said he disagreed with Wasinger’s opposition to expanding eligibility among the state’s working poor for Medicaid. Reform of the system, known as KanCare, could add more than 100,000 people to Medicaid and deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to the state’s health delivery system.
Decisions by GOP lawmakers to block KanCare expansion cost Hays Medical Center millions of dollars annually, Hammond said.
In addition, he said Wasinger hadn’t effectively advocated for delivery of full state funding of K-12 special education, which was detrimental to public and private schools in Hays. Wasinger also “failed to obtain fair and equitable funding” for FHSU and fell short in recognizing the district’s need for better state funding of highway infrastructure, he said.
Hammond said the Republican representative appeared more interested in maintaining a perfect voting record with the Kansas Chamber than addressing needs of constituents in Hays.
“People have to stand up if we’re not adequately represented,” Hammond said.
Wasinger wasn’t immediately available to comment on Hammond’s assertions. The Kansas House filing deadline is June 10, and no Republican has filed to challenge Wasinger in the August primary. So far, Hammond is the lone Democrat in the race. They would compete for the seat in November.
Hammond served on the local Chamber of Commerce board in Hays and was on the executive committee of the Kansas Calvary, a voluntary economic development organization, under three former governors.
He has been a resident of Ellis County since accepting appointment as FHSU president in 1987. In 1997, Hammond created FHSU’s first online college system for distance education. He built a relationship with SIAS International University in China that led to establishment of a bachelor’s degree program for Chinese students.
FHSU’s enrollment grew from 5,000 to 15,000 during his presidency, which ended in 2014. Before working at FHSU, Hammond served in student affairs positions at Seton Hall University, University of Louisville and Southern Illinois University. He earned a doctorate at University of Missouri and two degrees from Emporia State University. He was born in Texas, but grew up in Roeland Park.
In the past 25 years, the House district covering Hays has been represented by Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Eber Phelps, a Democrat, served from 1997 to 2013, when he was defeated by Republican Sue Boldra. She served as state representative for four years, until defeated by Phelps. He remained in office until 2019, when replaced by Wasinger. She carried the district by a mere three dozen votes.
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