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Schodorf bows out, backs Carmichael for House seat, says she may challenge Kobach

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, August 26, 2013, at 11 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Sep. 26, 2013, at 6:57 a.m.

Former Republican state Sen. Jean Schodorf has dropped out of the race to finish retiring Democratic Rep. Nile Dillmore’s term – possibly to run against Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Her move clears the way for state Democratic Party Secretary John Carmichael to represent the northwest Wichita district for at least the next year.

Schodorf, an educator and political moderate who joined the Democratic Party in January, said she is withdrawing her name and endorsing Carmichael for the Dillmore vacancy while she explores other 2014 election options. She said party members at the DemoFest held in Wichita a week ago encouraged her to challenge Kobach.

“It is a possibility,” she said. “I’m studying it to see if it’s viable.”

Of Carmichael, she said, “John’s worked for me and he’s worked for Nile over many years – I think he’ll do a good job” if, as expected, Democratic precinct committee members choose him to finish the last year of Dillmore’s term.

As a state party officer, Carmichael said he couldn’t endorse any 2014 candidates until after next year’s primaries. However, he issued a statement praising Schodorf’s service as a senator and encouraging her to run against Kobach.

“It was a sad day for Kansas when she was pushed out of the Senate by Governor (Sam) Brownback’s allies,” he said. “I know Jean truly lives to serve the people of Kansas, and I encourage her to take on the next big challenge.

“It’s time to end Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s divisive, partisan warfare on Kansas voters, and I believe Jean Schodorf is the person to run against him next year,” Carmichael said.

Already running against Kobach is businessman Randy Rolston of Mission Hills, the co-founder of Victorian Trading Co., an Internet and mail-order catalog business based in Johnson County.

Schodorf originally voted in favor of a Kobach-sponsored voter ID and proof-of-citizenship bill in 2011 but later that year voted against a follow-up implementation bill and said she deeply regretted her earlier vote.

Kobach responded that regardless of who the Democratic candidate is, it will be “someone who wants to dismantle our photo ID processes versus someone who wants to keep them in place.”

Schodorf and Carmichael both expressed interest in the 92nd District House seat following Dillmore’s surprise announcement in mid-August that he would retire after 13 years in office.

Dillmore’s immediate replacement, who will serve in the 2014 session, will be selected by the precinct committee members after Dillmore makes his retirement official. Carmichael, a Wichita lawyer, is a longtime Democratic activist who has served in several party positions and has held appointed state board positions under the last three Democratic governors.

Carmichael is a member of the precinct committee that will choose Dillmore’s replacement and appeared to have the inside track with the group.

There are only four voting members of the precinct committee in the 92nd District, according to Sedgwick County Democratic Party Chairwoman Terese Shumaker Johnson.

Precinct Committeewoman Jenna Engels said she never imagined when she ran for the ordinarily obscure position in 2012 that she’d be one of four people choosing a state representative.

But she said now she expects that Carmichael will be the only contender.

“I have not heard of any other hats in the ring,” she said. “I know he’ll be a good representative, and I wholeheartedly support him.”

Of Schodorf, she said, “I think she’s destined for bigger and better things.”

Schodorf was a Republican member of the Senate from January 2001 to January 2013 but switched parties after her Senate term expired, saying that the GOP had left its moderates behind.

She was ousted from office in a 2012 primary race against then-Wichita City Council member Michael O’Donnell, who was backed by conservative and business interests.

Dillmore said he plans to turn in the paperwork just after the upcoming special session that begins Sept. 3 in Topeka, with an effective resignation date of Sept. 30.

If the precinct officials install Carmichael as expected, he could face former Rep. Brenda Landwehr in the 2014 election.

Landwehr had laid the groundwork to challenge Schodorf in the 2012 Republican Senate primary, but a court-ordered redistricting plan put them in different districts.

Landwehr then sought to win re-election to the House but lost to Dillmore in the also redrawn 92nd District.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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