Hays Democrat Larry Dreiling was counting on a big turnout for him in Ellis County in his Kansas Senate District 40 race against incumbent Rick Billinger, a Goodland Republican.
That hope never materialized, as Dreiling lost Ellis County by a 2-to-1 margin. After the unofficial vote was tallied Tuesday night, Billinger won in a landslide, receiving 79% of the vote to Dreiling’s 21% of almost 35,000 cast. Billinger had 27,536 votes to 7,269 for his challenger. In Ellis County, Dreiling received 4,420 votes compared to 8,639 for his opponent.
"Ellis County is now definitely a red county," Dreiling said. "I was counting on a few old friends to come through, and I guess they’re not there anymore."
Billinger won by about the same margin in 2016, when he won his first term in the Senate by beating Democrat Alex Herman in the general election, garnering 74% of the vote. As he starts his second term in the Senate, Billinger, 68, is mulling over a potential leadership position.
"I’m humbled and really appreciate the support I received from the 40th District," Billinger said. "We’ll have to get organized as far as leadership and so forth. I’ve got a number of folks in the Senate that would like me to move into a leadership position. I’m not quite sure I want to do that."
Dreiling, 62, has no regrets running for political office for the first time.
"I’m very glad I got into the race," Dreiling said. "I met so many amazing people, not necessarily just from the district — there’s good people in the district — but statewide.
"Congratulations to Rick, and we move forward. I’ll find a job somewhere in the community, take care of my dad, go from there."