The fight for control of the Sedgwick County Commission gained another player Thursday when state Sen. Carolyn McGinn announced she would challenge District 4 Commissioner Richard Ranzau in the Republican primary.
McGinn represented that district for six years before she was elected to the Legislature in 2004. “I have had people from all over the district encouraging me for a long time. After 10 years, it’s time to come home,” she told The Eagle on Thursday.
The commission often votes 3-2 on issues, with Republicans Jim Skelton and Dave Unruh and Democrat Tim Norton in the majority. Ranzau and District 3 Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who are more conservative, often side with each other in the minority.
Skelton is walking away from public office, leaving the District 5 seat open. State Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, and Derby Mayor Dion Avello have filed as Republicans in that race. Democrat Richard Young, former mayor of Rose Hill, also is running. If Howell and Ranzau were to win, the board’s majority would become more conservative.
Ranzau confirmed Thursday that he is “absolutely” running to keep his seat, but he has not yet filed. He said he plans to do so by petition. Former Rep. Melody McCray-Miller has filed as a Democrat for the seat.
Ranzau said he wasn’t surprised McGinn entered the race.
“There’s been rumors for months that the downtown people were looking for hired guns to take me on, and it looks like they found one,” he said. “This is about cronyism pure and simple.”
Ranzau has been a vocal critic of economic development incentives, saying government should not choose winners and losers.
McGinn countered in an interview that she has a “pretty diverse contributor base” and is running because everyday citizens have supported her.
“My drive is to be a public servant,” she said.
McGinn said in a news release that she would be an advocate for Wichita and Sedgwick County as strong competitors for jobs. She said the county must act aggressively to compete with other states and countries – to boost job prospects and retain current jobs. She supports a greater local investment in workforce training, education and public/private partnerships like NIAR and NCAT that enhance avenues for success.
She said she also would stand against unfunded federal mandates that cost Sedgwick County taxpayers money.
“Now more than ever, we need an advocate for transparency in budgeting and long-term strategies to reduce the federal tax burden pushed down on local governments,” McGinn said in the release. “And equally as important, when we, as taxpayers, write our checks to the federal government, we need to ensure that those dollars come back to Sedgwick County. We cannot afford to have our tax dollars diverted to fund federal programs in other states.”
McGinn was among a number of senators targeted by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other groups seeking a more conservative Senate in the 2012 elections. Eight of the targeted incumbents were defeated. McGinn kept her seat but later was replaced as chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
McGinn and her husband, Mark, live on a diversified family farm outside Sedgwick. She has two grown sons.
District 4 covers the north-central part of the county, including Valley Center and Park City. District 5 covers southeast Sedgwick County, including Derby.
Current commissioner Dave Unruh is so far unopposed in District 1 in the northeast part of the county.