News Briefs

Southeast Kansas Republican senator to resign ahead of 2023 legislative session

By: - January 4, 2023 4:19 pm
Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, standing, a Republican from Baxter Springs in southeast Kansas, plans to resign Sunday one day prior to opening of the 2023 legislative session. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, standing, a Republican from Baxter Springs in southeast Kansas, plans to resign Sunday one day prior to opening of the 2023 legislative session. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A conservative Republican from southeast Kansas plans to resign from the Kansas Senate one day before start of the 2023 legislative session.

Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, who joined the Senate in 2017, informed the Kansas secretary of state’s office that he intended to step down Sunday. He was elected in 2020 to the Senate and was in the middle of a four-year term. The GOP in the 13th Senate district will be responsible for selecting his replacement.

Hilderbrand, 53, said in a brief email to Secretary of State Scott Schwab that he was honored to serve constituents in southeast Kansas and appreciated “the trust they placed in me to be their voice in Topeka.”

He was appointed to the 13th District seat in the Senate when it was vacated in April 2017 by Jake LaTurner, who was appointed state treasurer by Gov. Sam Brownback. LaTurner was chosen to fill the void left by resignation of Treasurer Ron Estes, who was elected to the U.S. House in the 4th District of Wichita. Subsequently, LaTurner was elected to Congress in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas.

Hilderbrand had chaired the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, but will be replaced by Sen. Beverly Gossage, a Republican from Eudora.

Hilderbrand was among the Legislature’s leading critics of Kansas’ election process in terms of security. He sought passage of bills designed to limit what he perceived to be the threat of fraud.

In 2022, he inserted into a bill a requirement election officials in all 105 counties verify chain of custody on every ballot or risk felony prosecution. He said motivation for the measure was his belief, not proven, that ballots were shredded in Cherokee County in 2010.

“Any time we can secure and insure fair elections, that every vote legally cast is counted, we owe it to our constituents,” Hilderbrand said.

Hilderbrand expressed frustration in 2021 with a legislative committee’s discussion of a report indicating Black women in Kansas suffered 14% of pregnancy-related fatalities but were responsible for 7.1% of births in the state. He said no one should consider the statistics evidence of systematic racism.

“That terminology of racism is being thrown around way, entirely too much,” he said. “If you’re going to accuse somebody of being racist, I want a specific instance.”

In 2020, Hilderbrand was among senators who discounted the potential health risk of COVID-19. He pressed the Legislature to strip local health directors and the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment of authority to require people to wear masks or be subject to contact tracing.

Prior to serving in the Senate, Hilderbrand was a member of the Cherokee County Commission and worked in the insurance industry.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.