On Tuesday, Wichita City Council members begin what could be a three-week process of selecting a replacement for Kansas senator-elect Michael O’Donnell.
But it’s possible the seat will be left open until the April city elections.
The council is set to interview Monday four candidates who have filed to replace O’Donnell, whose District 4 covers parts of south and west Wichita. The candidates are former council members Paul Gray, 4416 W. Doris, and Stan Reeser, 2551 S. Hiram; Joshua Blick, 2039 S. Everett; and Goddard school board member Jeff Blubaugh, 10915 W. Atlanta Circle.
The first of what Mayor Carl Brewer said could be several votes to replace O’Donnell may follow Tuesday during the council meeting that starts at 9 a.m. at City Hall. Any candidate chosen would temporarily replace O’Donnell until the April 2 city election. The winner of the April election will finish the remaining two years of O’Donnell’s unexpired term.
Several council members told The Eagle late last week that they were skeptical any of the four candidates could land the four votes necessary to secure the temporary appointment. As a result, they were considering leaving the seat open until the spring election, primarily to avoid creating a temporary incumbent with an advantage.
Friday afternoon, it wasn’t immediately clear if city ordinances allow the interview process to be suspended, leaving the position unfilled until April.
If the selection process proceeds, Brewer said, city ordinances require that the council vote over up to three meetings if it deadlocks in an effort to choose a candidate. And even if one can’t be selected after multiple votes, any ties must be broken, the mayor said.
Brewer doesn’t expect one meeting to settle O’Donnell’s replacement if the process proceeds.
“I’m certain of that,” he said.
The Monday candidate interviews, which will be one on one with individual council members, will be more extensive than originally planned to differentiate between the candidates, the mayor said.
“We have a lot of things to find out,” Brewer said. “At this point, I think that Gray is the only one that any of us know anything about.”
Council members also are wading through lobbying e-mails, the mayor said, with advocates for each candidate weighing in.
Gray served two terms, from 2003 through 2011, before leaving because of term limits. Reeser served from 1991 through 1995.
O’Donnell won the District 25 Senate seat in November. He left the council in December.