Big Campaign, Small Margins: Inside the Run for Kansas State Legislature with Dan Osman


Ethan Sosland, Co-Editor in Chief

Nov. 8, 2022 was election day for the Kansas State House of Representatives’ 48th district. In this tough battle to represent a section of Overland Park, Dan Osman pulled off a victory  against challenger Terry Frederick by accumulating 51.3% of the total vote. With only around ten-thousand total votes cast, a few hundred votes determined this election. 


A decade ago, Osman was living in Missouri with his wife and new-born daughter. As a new parent, he began to question: “Where is she going to go to school? What is it like? What can I do to fix it?” Without any prior knowledge, Osman decided to run for his local school board. After winning this election and accumulating enough votes for a second term, he and his family moved to Overland Park, KS. Although promising to stay out of politics, Osman noticed an opening in District 48 for the Kansas State House of Representatives. 


In 2021, the  incumbent candidate for Kansas State District 48, Jennifer Day, resigned when she moved outside the district. With the experience from holding the school board position and the support of his family, Osman decided to give the position a shot. “It was the right time for me personally, and our family” he stated, “you can’t come into a position like this…without having your family behind you.” 


However, Osman’s campaign for Day’s vacated seat was rather short. In order to get the position, all he needed to do was stand before the Precinct Committee Leaders who interviewed him. He was appointed to Day’s seat by Democrat party leaders. Although it was a quick campaign, he could tell that he appealed to the Committee Leaders and understood he would appeal to his constituents in the same way. 

As many high school students turn 18 years old during their senior year, they become eligible to vote. Image by Ethan Sosland.

Osman says that “[T]he only way to effectively represent people is to talk to them.” 


Therefore, Osman’s main method in preparing for reelection was “walking the district.” He even describes this method as “the single best way to get in front of a voter and get your name out there.” He has been campaigning this way since late May, and continued until he reached election day. Osman said this method is best because “it gets your name out there effectively, and allows you to know who the people are you represent.”


For all state legislatures, campaigning for the upcoming election cycle begins following a day known as “Sine Die.” Sine Die marks the end of the legislative session, and afterwards, you are allowed to begin fundraising and campaigning. “People then switch from legislative mode to campaign mode,” Osman said.


Although elections are time consuming, most people in the state legislature must work a full-time job as well. Osman explains the pay for a legislative position is effectively minimum wage, and it has not been raised in 20-30 years. He says that “it’s a very difficult proposition to support yourself, by yourself, with just a legislature’s salary.” Therefore, he works as an attorney and does contract consulting for developers.


Fortunately for Osman, his position comes with flexibility, allowing him to make time for campaigning and legislative duties. “I can do the [consulting] work in the morning and walk [the district] in the afternoon,” he describes.  “I can continue to do that work [legal consulting] while up in the legislature in the evenings and the weekends, and still work in the legislature during the day,” Osman says.


Even with low wages, running a legislative campaign is pricey. Osman estimates that he would need to fundraise $50,000. This amount exceeds the amount of money he will make during any session, which he explains is not exclusive to the state government. Osman says,: “To get your name out there, things cost money…all of it takes some amount of money to piece together.”


As the 2022 Kansas state election approached, Osman began transitioning his campaigning into a more technology-based approach. He was phone banking, sending mass texts, and managing a social media presence. He finished knocking on the last doors in an attempt to squeeze out those last votes, knowing that these votes could make all the difference.

Osman inched ahead of Frederick by a mere 261 votes. Image by IndyStar.

After being elected on Nov. 8, 2022,, Osman immediately transitioned into his legislative role. He resumed communication with the research department and the advisors office to discuss legislation he plans to bring forward when the session begins. Some of his legislative colleagues are also fighting for leadership positions, requiring him to figure out who he plans to support.


Being a part of a party with a super minority, Osman defines success as trying to make your voice heard in committee hearings. He also values bipartisan work, as he says this is needed to prevent “really bad” legislation. With a governor, Laura Kelly, who shares his party affiliation, he can keep these bills from being passed, as long as he manages to prevent a supermajority override of  her veto.


After this campaign cycle, he was still unsure on where his future in politics lies. 


“I think it’s too soon to think about [running for] anything further [up in the ranks],” Osman remarks. “I think that I will be running again in two years [for reelection].” 


Ultimately, his goal in Topeka is adding whatever value he can. “I only want to run for something if I feel that I’m going to be effective at it,” Osman states. Whatever the position may be, he only plans to fill spaces where he knows he is qualified for the job.