TOPEKA — Former Fort Hays State University president Edward Hammond filed his candidacy at Kansas House on Friday ahead of a challenge from incumbent Republican Barb Wasinger.
Hammond, who ruled 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 a week before the deadline. filing 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 assessment of the impact of these decisions on Hays. The Republican was elected to the Kansas House in 2018 and has served on committees on higher education, taxation and financial institutions.
“As I continued to watch the votes cast by our current District Representative, many of whom 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 Medicaid eligibility for the state’s working poor. Reforming the system, known as KanCare, could add more than 100,000 people to Medicaid and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to the state health care system.
Decisions by GOP lawmakers to block KanCare’s expansion are costing Hays Medical Center millions of dollars a year, Hammond said.
Further, he said Wasinger did not effectively advocate for the provision of full public funding for K-12 special education, which was detrimental to public and private schools in Hays. Wasinger also “failed to secure fair and equitable funding” for FHSU and failed to recognize the district’s need for better public funding for highway infrastructure, he said.
Hammond said the Republican Rep seemed more interested in maintaining a perfect voting record with the Kansas House than meeting the needs of Hays voters.
“People need to stand up if we’re not being represented adequately,” Hammond said.
Wasinger was not immediately available to comment on Hammond’s claims. Kansas House’s filing deadline is June 10, and no Republicans have filed to challenge Wasinger in the August primary. So far, Hammond is the only Democrat in the race. They would run for the seat in November.
Hammond served on the board of directors of the local Chamber of Commerce in Hays and on the executive committee of Kansas Calvary, a voluntary economic development organization, under the leadership of three former governors.
He has resided in Ellis County since being named FHSU president in 1987. In 1997, Hammond created FHSU’s first online university system for distance education. He established a relationship with the SIAS International University in China which led to the establishment of a bachelor’s degree program for Chinese students.
Enrollment at FHSU grew from 5,000 to 15,000 during his presidency, which ended in 2014. Prior to working at FHSU, Hammond held student affairs positions at Seton Hall University, the University of Louisville and Southern Illinois University. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri and two degrees from Emporia State University. He was born in Texas, but grew up in Roeland Park.
For the past 25 years, the House district covering Hays has been represented by Democrats and Republicans. Representative Eber Phelps, a Democrat, served from 1997 until 2013, when he was defeated by Republican Sue Boldra. She served as a state representative for four years, until her defeat by Phelps. He remained in office until 2019, when he was replaced by Wasinger. She won the district by just three dozen votes.