Politics & Government

Three Wichita City Council districts will have primaries, election official says

Primaries will be held in three Wichita City Council districts on Feb. 26, the Sedgwick County election commissioner said Thursday after receiving confirmation that a city charter ordinance overrides a state law on the number of candidates needed for a primary.

A Wichita charter ordinance says a primary election will be held if more than two candidates have filed for a seat. State law calls for a primary if more than three candidates have filed for a seat.

Questions over which law to follow delayed announcement of primaries in two Wichita City Council races, each with three candidates, election commissioner Tabitha Lehman said.

Primaries will be held in Districts 3, 4 and 6, Lehman said, instead of just in District 4.

She said she sought legal input after reviewing city and state laws and a related attorney general’s ruling earlier this week, then received “the go ahead to hold the primaries” Thursday morning, two days after the filing deadline.

“I had to seek clarification from the county attorney’s office about which law to follow, which was the reason for the delay,” she said.

“For us, our biggest concern was making sure we are abiding within the confines of the law.”

In an interview with the Eagle last week, Lehman cited state law when she said at least four candidates were needed to hold a primary in a race with one open seat.

District 3 incumbent James Clendenin will face 21-year-old Wichita State University student Clinton Coen and Mary Dean, a retired Boeing employee and president of social justice organization Kansas Justice Advocate. The seat serves portions of south and southeast Wichita.

Vice Mayor Janet Miller will face Richard Stephenson, an Occupy Wichita member who has appeared at council meetings to protest police-involved shootings and Marty Mork, a recurrent candidate for legislative office, in the primary election, in District 6, which covers parts of north-central Wichita.

Four candidates — Joshua Blick, Jeff Blubaugh, Craig Gabel and David Glover — are vying for former councilman Michael O’Donnell’s unexpired term in southwest Wichita’s District 4.

Blick, a consultant, and Glover, a Wal-Mart employee, have run for the seat before. Gabel, a businessman, lost his bid for a House seat in November. Blubaugh, who is a real estate agent and Goddard school board member, also ran unsuccessfully for the House.

Other cities across the state have similar charter ordinances, including Park City, which is holding a primary in its city council Ward 2. Three candidates — Leonard Warren, Cecil Goldsmith and George Glover — have filed for the seat.

The general election is April 2.