David Dennis will run against County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn

Republican David Dennis announces his campaign for Sedgwick County commissioner on Thursday. (May 5, 2016)
Republican David Dennis announces his campaign for Sedgwick County commissioner on Thursday. (May 5, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn will have a primary opponent in August.

Former state education board chairman and retired Air Force colonel David Dennis announced he would run for the Republican nomination for Peterjohn’s seat on the Sedgwick County Commission.

“I continue to hear that voters in District 3 are concerned that Mr. Peterjohn does not represent us,” Dennis said, “but instead is more interested in his personal political agenda than in our community issues.”

Dennis announced his campaign at a Thursday news conference in west Wichita with about a dozen supporters.

The heavily Republican 3rd District covers much of west Wichita and several smaller cities in the western part of the county. It is the largest and most rural of Sedgwick County’s five commission districts.

Dennis criticized the ideological turn of the County Commission since last January under Peterjohn, commissioner Richard Ranzau and current chairman Jim Howell. Peterjohn is the only member of that majority up for re-election in 2016.

“I’ve been a Republican my entire life. I think our current county commission leans more toward the libertarian,” Dennis said. “There are certain things that we still rely on government to do. I think that their ideology has pushed us past conservative Republican ideals.”

He said he grew concerned about the direction of the county after last year’s county budget cycle. He criticized the choice to pay for road and bridge maintenance with cash instead of bonds, reducing previous county commitments to public health, and broken funding agreements with partners like the Sedgwick County Zoo.

“If we’ve made commitments, we need to live up to our commitments,” Dennis said. “Any candidate for public office should reasonably live up to the obligations and promises made to entities such as the zoo, the health department and others that rely on their commissioners to keep their word.”

Dennis served in the Air Force for 29 years and taught high school after his retirement from the military. He served on the Kansas Board of Education from 2009 to 2012. He is currently vice chair of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, a joint Wichita-Sedgwick County advisory board.

Peterjohn announced earlier in the week on Facebook that he was running for re-election. He said the commission majority’s support for a property tax lid on local governments would be a big campaign issue for him.

“We’ve got to keep our spending under control to be in a position to operate in a fiscally responsibly way and not put additional burdens on the property tax payers in Sedgwick County,” Peterjohn said.

Dennis is the second person to announce a run for Peterjohn’s seat. Goddard Mayor Marcey Gregory announced an independent campaign last week and is collecting 2,500 signatures to compete in the general election in November.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar