Kansas securities commissioner Chris Biggs has been named by Gov. Mark Parkinson as Kansas secretary of state.
He succeeds Ron Thornburgh, who resigned to join an Olathe consultant firm.
Parkinson said Biggs had experience in running a state agency -- he's been in charge of the state's securities commission since 2003. He was also Geary County attorney for 14 years.
“Chris has been in public service for more than twenty years, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to our state, our citizens and our future,” Parkinson said. “Chris will bring his forward-looking vision to the Office of Secretary of State while increasing the efficiency and participation in Kansas’ elections.”
The appointment gives Biggs, a Democratic candidate in what is a crowded field, a leg up on rivals, including fellow Democrat Jack Steineger, a state senator from Kansas City, Kan. There are three Republicans seeking that party's nomination, including Johnson County conservative Kris Kobach.
Steineger said he's not deterred by the appointment.
“I entered the campaign for Secretary of State assuming there would be competition in the primary and general elections, and I have planned accordingly,” Steineger said.
In recent years, the post has been seen as a springboard for higher political ambitions.
Most recently, Bill Graves parlayed his time as secretary of state into the governor's chair. Thornburgh, a popular Republican moderate, tried the same thing but dropped out of the governor's race in the face of the bid of U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a well-financed darling of conservative Republicans.
Biggs' appointment also adds a bizarre touch to Kansas politics. With the exception of Sandy Praeger, commissioner of insurance, none of the people serving in the top statewide offices were elected to them. What's more it's one of the few times in which Democrats have a overwhelming presence in the top offices in this heavily-Republican state. Praeger is the only Republican.
"It's one for the Kansas history books," one legislator observed. "It's something you can tell your grandchildren."
Parkinson, who before he became a Democrat had been chair of the state GOP, had been elected lieutenant governor but moved up when Kathleen Sebelius was named U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services. He named former legislator Troy Findley as his lieutenant governor. Steven Six, a Democrat and district judge, was named attorney general after former Johnson County prosecutor Paul Morrison resigned following a sex scandal. Central Kansas legislator Dennis McKinney was named state treasurer when Republican Lynn Jenkins was elected to Congress.