The makeup of the Sedgwick County Commission will remain the same the next four years, despite two seats that were up for grabs this year.
Incumbent Tim Norton, a Democrat, won over political newcomer Republican Ben Sauceda with 55 percent of the vote and will continue to represent District 2, which covers south-central Wichita and Haysville.
District 3 Commissioner Karl Peterjohn had won his Republican primary in August, defeating Wichita City Council member Jeff Longwell, and did not have an opponent in the general election.
The outcome of the District 2 race ensures that the commission’s majority — Norton, Jim Skelton and Dave Unruh — will stay the same.
Election night was relatively anticlimactic as problems counting votes and publishing results ended watch parties without victory speeches.
Norton, his wife and other family members finally left his election watch party at The Studio at Illusion Productions in Haysville just before 11 p.m., not knowing the results of the race.
A little after midnight, Norton continued to sort through results with his wife and children. When it appeared he had won, he said, “I’m happy to serve the people for another four years. I ran on my record. I ran a positive campaign, and focused only on me and I’m proud of that.”
Earlier at his party, Norton thanked supporters for their help and work on his campaign.
“I’m one of the most blessed people,” he said.
He said he focused his campaign on issues instead of party ideology.
“My agenda is to take care of people,” he said.
In a nearby room, six of his grandchildren, along with their friends, watched a movie, snuggled up in sleeping bags for a sleepover of sorts.
He kissed them goodnight as they left the party looking sleepy.
Norton said he had never had an election night like Tuesday’s, where results were elusive all night.
A win by Sauceda likely would have shifted the majority to commissioners Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau, who at times vote together when the board splits on an issue.
The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee endorsed Norton as pro-business. He was the only Democrat the PAC supported.
Some Republican leaders said off the record that they were supporting Norton but were hesitant to say so publicly because they could be censured by the party, as Skelton was in July.
Sauceda spent election night at Republican Party headquarters in downtown Wichita.
“I’m ready for the numbers to come in,” he said about 8:30 p.m., unaware that the wait would be hours longer. “Everything’s kind of a whirlwind.”
Sauceda filed for election by petition and ran on a platform of being fiscally conservative. He said he thought commissioners could do more to save taxpayers money.
Sauceda said he would have voted against any incentive for a business that could not be successful without government help.
Despite losing, Sauceda said he was pleased with the race.
“No one gave us a shot, and there has been a lot of suspense and a lot of excitement the last couple of days and weeks,” Sauceda said. “It’s been good to meet people across the district.”
He said he had the “best” group of volunteers he could have asked for for his campaign.
Norton, first elected in 2001, is a former Target manager who was mayor of Haysville when a tornado struck the area in 1999. He retired from the store to help with tornado relief.
Norton serves as president of the Kansas Association of Counties and is a past president of the Kansas County Commissioners Association.
One of his major interests is public health. He is a Kansas Public Health Scholar and has participated in the National Public Health Leadership Institute program at the University of North Carolina.
The only Democrat on the commission, Norton is known for his calm demeanor from the bench. He doesn’t argue with his colleagues openly when his position on an issue is criticized. However, his displeasure is noticeable at times as he stares ahead quietly. This year he has served as chairman of the board, his second time in that role.
Christi Benbrook voted Tuesday at the Haysville Community Center. The Mulvane resident, 40, said she voted for Norton even though she voted for Republican Mitt Romney for president.
“I’ve known Tim since I was a teenager,” she said.
Kristy Ramsey, 55, said the same.
“I think he’s done a good job for us,” she said.