TOPEKA – Although it remains unofficial, a heartbroken J. Basil Dannebohm said Monday he may resign his seat in the Kansas Legislature due to the debilitating ravages of his young onset Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s worn me to the point I can’t be worn any more,” the Ellinwood freshman Republican told the Great Bend Tribune of his illness. “No matter how much you love doing something, you have to know that each day that passes I compromise my health more and more.”
Dannebohm, who represents the 113th District, was the first state lawmaker with this form of Parkinson’s elected and he has advocated to raise awareness of it. He has also worked on concierge medicine policy and rural issues including water policy, as well as co-sponsoring legislation to legalize medical marijuana.
“I wanted to be that champion,” he said, adding he hoped to be a role model for those with various afflictions. “I wanted to say ‘hey, you can do this.’”
But, “the disease had other plans,” he said. He has been stumbling, falling down stairs and has had other problems.
You have to know when to walk away, he said. “For me, that moment came far sooner than I expected. I thought I could serve in the Kansas Legislature with young onset Parkinson’s disease. The simple fact of the matter however is that I can’t.”
There are those in Topeka who want him to reconsider, among them his predecessor Marshall Christmann of Lyons. Dannebohm said Christmann suggested he rest for spell and come back.
Dannebohm would like to see Christmann return to the post.
Dannebohm’s staff and colleagues have also offered to make adaptations to allow him to stay.
He’s also gotten messages of support from Gov. Sam Brownback and fellow lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle. “That’s been nice,” he said.
Nonetheless, barring any change of heart, “this will likely be inked Friday at midnight and handed over to the secretary of state.”
This will make the action official. The precincts in the 113th will then have 21 days to name a replacement which must then be approved by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
“This is the most empty and heartbroken I’ve ever been,” Dannebohm said. “I’ve failed. I couldn’t be your voice.”
Now, he almost ashamed to come back to Barton County. But, “I can say I tried.”
His only plans, should his resignation come to pass, is to come home, rest and reevaluate.
Dannebohm serves on the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee, the House Vision 2020 Committee and the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.