South-central Kansas incumbents mostly hold on to Legislature seats

Representative Joseph Scapa, District 87, checks election results during the Sedgwick County Republican Party election watch party. (Nov. 4, 2014)
Representative Joseph Scapa, District 87, checks election results during the Sedgwick County Republican Party election watch party. (Nov. 4, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Republican Joseph Scapa will return to the state House after defeating Democrat Patricia Sloop by just 48 votes.

The race was a rematch of the 2012 race in House District 88 in southeast Wichita, when Sloop ousted Scapa from office.

“I’m very humbled by the results,” said Scapa, 40, a real estate agent who described himself as a “commonsense conservative.” “I’m looking forward to getting back to Topeka to serve my district.”

Sloop beat Scapa with 53 percent of the vote in 2012. Scapa served in District 87 in the 2011-12 Legislature but said he was “drawn out” into a new district when redistricting occurred.

“It was mostly new territory, so the voters did not know me in that district,” Scapa said about his 2012 loss.

This year, “we put in a lot of hard work knocking on doors and meeting voters, and I think the voters were more familiar with me this time around,” he said.

Results are unofficial until canvassing is complete. Scapa garnered 50 percent of the vote to Sloop’s 49 percent.

Sloop could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Elsewhere in south-central Kansas, most incumbents held on to their seats. Here is a roundup of some key races:

District 81

Blake Carpenter, a 23-year-old Republican, beat Democrat Lynn Wells to fill Rep. Jim Howell’s seat, which was left open by Howell’s run for Sedgwick County Commission.

“I had a lot of great support,” Carpenter said Tuesday after the results were in.

Carpenter was visibly nervous, saying “I’m shaking.”

He said he thought what made the difference for his race was that “I … knocked on a lot of doors. I had a lot of yard signs.”

Carpenter, of Derby, works as a contractor at the National Institute for Aviation Research and expects to graduate with a degree in entrepreneurship from Wichita State University in December.

He has said his top issue is repealing the renewable portfolio standards, which require that Kansas utility companies get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“I just don’t think it’s very efficient,” he said in an earlier interview. “Stick with coal energy and all that stuff we use for reliable sources.”

He was endorsed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

Wells, 65, a retired social worker, ran unsuccessfully against Howell in 2012.

District 79

Republican challenger Larry Alley appeared to defeat Democratic Rep. Ed Trimmer by just six votes in District 79, which covers northeast Sumner and northwest Cowley counties.

Alley is owner and CEO of Eastside Development. He has campaigned for a reduction in federal oversight on state issues, for a revised school finance formula and for granting local school boards more authority in spending existing funds.

Trimmer, a 62-year-old retired educator, has said tax incentives should be tied directly to job creation. He also wanted to increase base state aid per pupil to the 2008-09 level of $4,092, at a minimum.

Both candidates live in Winfield.

District 92

Democratic Rep. John Carmichael defeated Republican Jeremy Alessi, 53 percent to 46 percent, in House District 92 in central-west Wichita.

Carmichael, 57, was appointed to the seat last year to replace Nile Dillmore, who retired. He says the state should restore a balanced tax policy on income taxes that will take pressure off of property taxes.

Alessi, 38, is managing partner of an investment firm.

District 93

Republican John Whitmer topped Democrat Sammy Flaharty by more than two-thirds of the vote in the race for House District 93, which covers Cheney, Viola, Clearwater and parts of Goddard, Haysville, Mulvane and Wichita.

Whitmer earned 68 percent of ballots to Flaharty’s 31 percent.

Whitmer, 46, was appointed to fulfill the remainder of incumbent Joe Edwards’ term after Edwards died of a heart attack in August; Whitmer had defeated Edwards in the Republican primary.

He owns KanCon, which stages autograph shows and other events. He moved into a house still under construction to be eligible to run for the seat.

He has said he supports Brownback’s fiscal approach, says schools should run more efficiently and says tax cuts will make Kansas more attractive to businesses.

Flaharty, 66, of Garden Plain, is a substitute teacher.

District 95

Democrat Tom Sawyer defeated Republican Benny Boman, 57 percent to 41 percent, in a rematch of the 2012 race for Kansas House District 95.

That year, Sawyer unseated Boman with 53 percent of the vote.

Sawyer, who has 17 years’ experience in the House, was first elected in 1986 and lost a gubernatorial bid to then-incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Graves in 1998. Voters re-elected him in 2002, only to have him resign seven years later to serve on the state’s Parole Board.

He has said he ran for another term to undo tax-cutting measures enacted by a Republican-controlled Legislature after he left office. He also believes the state needs to reduce school class sizes and increase teacher pay.

House District 95 covers parts of southwest Wichita.

District 98

Republican Rep. Steven Anthimides held off a challenge from teacher Steven Crum in House District 98 in south Sedgwick County.

“I’m very excited. I’m at a loss for words,” Anthimides said after winning 51 percent of the vote compared with 48 percent for Crum.

Anthimides, 37, was appointed to the seat last year when Phil Hermanson moved out of the district and resigned. He is a real estate investor and owns Athena Jewelry.

Crum, 48, is a longtime Haysville City Council member.

District 102

Despite her challenger taking an early lead, Republican incumbent Jan Pauls was victorious in the District 102 race.

Pauls, formerly a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party earlier this year and was unopposed in the primary. She beat Democratic challenger Brian Davis with 53 percent of the vote.

In earlier interviews, Pauls had explained her party switch by saying, “Democrats have lost much public support and lost elected representatives because of their ever more leftist image.” She supports what she calls “friendly” tax policies for small businesses and reducing state and federal education mandates.

She is 62 and is retired from Santa Fe Railroad, BNSF.

Davis, 56,owns Cow Creek Investments and is a retired university administrator, with more than 25 years of service.

The district covers southeast and west-central Hutchinson.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.