The longtime lawmaker from Wichita, Rep. Gail Finney, died Saturday morning. She was 63.
The cause of death is not known. Finney had encountered health problems in recent years and received a kidney replacement earlier this year.
Condolences immediately began pouring in from elected officials, both in Wichita and around the state. Finney, a Democrat, was first elected to the Kansas House in 2009. She was not seeking re-election to the House in the fall.
Finney was considered a statesman in the House Democratic caucus and was noted for her work on a variety of issues, including reforming the state’s foster care system and criminal justice issues, most notably parole reform .
A small business owner in Wichita, Finney graduated from Wichita State University and also earned a master’s in business administration from Friends University.
Colleagues remember Rep. Gail Finney
In a statement, House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, said Finney was a “fighter” to continue serving as a lawmaker, even after major surgery.
“Rep. Gail Finney was an excellent example of a public servant,” Sawyer said. “Her continued work to ensure her community is properly represented in Topeka reflected an admirable commitment to her neighbors and community.”
The Sedgwick County Democratic Party announced her death on social media, calling her a “leader of the people and by the people.”
Wichita officials praised Finney as a champion for the city and its residents in the Legislature.
“You fought the good fight and your impact will be felt for years to come,” said Wichita Councilman Brandon Johnson.
In a social media post, Gov. Laura Kelly echoed that sentiment, saying “Kansas lost a warrior today.”
“Nobody fought harder for her constituents, for her community, for justice and equality,” Kelly said of Finney.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers immediately commented on a post from Community Voice Wichita sharing the news of Finney’s death.
“Gail was always a kind and gentle voice in Topeka,” wrote Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita. “You will be missed my friend.”
Attorney General Derek Schmidt noted that he had worked with Finney on criminal justice-related matters over the years and “she was always a steadfast advocate for her constituents and the Wichita community.”
Kansas will miss her voice,” Schmidt said.
Andrew Bahl is a senior state reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 443-979-6100.