The Wichita City Council will vote next week on a replacement for state Sen.-elect Michael O’Donnell, after learning Tuesday that one candidate was dropping out of the race to fill the District 4 representative’s term until the April city elections.
Meanwhile, two others on Tuesday bowed out of the April race for the remaining two years on the District 4 representative’s term.
Council members voted 4-2, with Pete Meitzner and James Clendenin opposed, to put the vote on O’Donnell’s replacement off a week. If a three-month replacement is selected from the remaining candidates — Jeff Blubaugh, Paul Gray and Stan Reeser — the new council member will be sworn in on the spot.
There were three significant announcements from the four candidates seeking to replace O’Donnell: Josh Blick announced to the council Tuesday that he is removing his name from consideration for the temporary post but intends to seek the remaining two years of O’Donnell’s term in April. Gray and Reeser reversed field, saying they would not run in April.
Blubaugh has already filed for the District 4 seat, according to Sedgwick County election records.
Reeser and Blick took a stand against the possibility floated by council members of leaving the position open until the April elections.
“I truly believe what’s best for the district is immediate representation,” Blick said. “Southwest Wichita suffers if there isn’t a selection.”
Mayor Carl Brewer led the effort to delay the vote, saying the announcements made another week of deliberation necessary.
But the decision was complicated by the council’s January meeting schedule, which wraps up with next Tuesday’s meeting. No meetings are scheduled for Jan. 22 and 29.
The council’s decision came after brief presentations Tuesday by the four men bidding for O’Donnell’s seat. On Monday afternoon, council members interviewed each of the four.
Blubaugh, a Wichita real estate agent, said he decided to serve the public after leaving a job at Cessna four years ago.
“I believe a community leader should be someone who serves the community,” he said. “I believe a leader in the community should be a well-rounded individual. I believe a leader in the community should be a business-minded individual.
Gray stood behind his record as a two-term council member from 2003-2011.
“My theory and philosophy is the same: I want what’s best for the community,” he said.
Reeser, who served one term on the council from 1991 through 1995, said he’s recaptured the “time and fire to recommit to making the city better than it is right now.
“I’ve been out of office long enough to provide a new, fresh set of eyes to this city council, and I think that could be beneficial,” he said.
O’Donnell left the council late last month, after winning the District 25 Kansas Senate seat in November.