Tuesday’s 20.4 percent turnout in Sedgwick County invested the few GOP primary voters who showed up with the power to make some crucial decisions on behalf of the no-shows. Voters made some good choices, but also a few baffling and regrettable ones.
Because no Democrat filed for the race, Republicans decided that Sedgwick County’s first new district attorney since 1989 will be one already known for his work in the office as deputy district attorney, Marc Bennett. The campaign and opponent Kevin O’Connor highlighted some problems in the office. Bennett’s statements so far about improving communication with police, defense attorneys, judges, other jurisdictions and the public have been encouraging.
GOP voters also determined that there will be a new sheriff in Sedgwick County in January. Fairly or not, the primary became a referendum on one-term Sheriff Bob Hinshaw’s oversight of the Sedgwick County Jail, and specifically an ongoing criminal case related to sex crimes and a civil lawsuit alleging abuse of mentally ill inmates. Wichita police Capt. Jeff Easter is a highly recommended law enforcement professional well-positioned not only to win in November against Democratic candidate Jefrey Weinman but to be a good sheriff.
It was less surprising that Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn overcame a significant challenge from Wichita City Council member Jeff Longwell on Tuesday than it was when Peterjohn claimed the job four years ago. Then, he was a professional anti-taxer who had the business community scared to death. Since then, Peterjohn has shown some willingness to listen, consider issues carefully and vote accordingly.
It was painful to see Sens. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, and Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, lose their seats in the Kansas Senate. They were valuable voices for schoolchildren and the disabled. But it is reassuring that Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, will return to Topeka.
The five contested Sedgwick County judicial elections, all settled in the GOP primary, were a mixed bag, retaining respected Judge William Woolley and more problematic first-term incumbents Phil Journey and J. Patrick Walters and electing well-qualified and -liked newcomers Dave Dahl and Stephen Ternes.
Forced by the redistricting fiasco into having to choose between two outstanding lawmakers, Democratic Reps. Judith Loganbill and Jim Ward, voters in Kansas House District 86 opted for Ward. Where other Democratic voters went awry was in choosing two House candidates who didn’t campaign and don’t want to serve, Rebecca Armstrong in District 85 and Pamela Frieden in District 93, over capable and willing candidates, and in opting for Timothy Snow rather than Perry Schuckman in Kansas Senate District 25. Schuckman, executive director of the Nonprofit Chamber of Service, was someone who could have attracted supporters of Schodorf in a general election face-off against Michael O’Donnell.
The best thing about Tuesday’s primary in Sedgwick County? It’s over.