Longtime judge Waller loses to Rundle in Sedgwick County race

In the race for the Sedgwick County district judgeship held by Gregory Waller for 21 years, challenger Seth Rundle won, according to the unofficial total vote count.

“I’m really grateful for all the support I received and wish Judge Waller the best,” Rundle said late Tuesday night. “Sooner or later, we all have to be replaced by somebody with less experience.”

Rundle, a 36-year-old Republican, has been assistant public defender for about 2 1/2 years. He said he has 10 years of experience in military and civilian law. He was an Air Force judge advocate. He grew up in Wichita and graduated from Northwest High School.

He defeated Linda Kirby in the GOP primary, saying then that “I had a lot of dedicated volunteers and grassroots help and support.” Rundle said he originally had planned to wait a few more years before running for election but thought the timing was right this year.

Rundle said he has an ability to be impartial and that that quality is key to being a judge.

Waller, a 66-year-old Democrat, has been a judge since 1993, making him one of the longest-serving in the county. He is one of three African-American district court judges in Kansas.

In recent days, Waller’s political advertisements stressed that he was the candidate with “experience,” with the word in all caps. His political ads also said he had higher ratings than his opponent in The Eagle/Wichita Bar Association survey. Among the high-profile cases he has dealt with were the guilty plea and sentencing of Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer.

Waller grew up in Hutchinson, graduated from Washburn Law School, worked in private practice for about 2 1/2 years and was an assistant district attorney for 18 years before becoming a judge. He was appointed to a vacant position by Gov. Joan Finney, a Democrat. This was his second contested election.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.