O’Donnell plans to challenge Norton for Sedgwick County Commission seat

Michael O’Donnell
Michael O’Donnell File photo

Sen. Michael O’Donnell will pursue a seat on the five-member Sedgwick County Commission instead of seeking re-election to the Kansas Senate.

O’Donnell, a Wichita Republican, announced Tuesday afternoon that he will vie for the commission seat in District 2, which includes Haysville, Clearwater and parts of Mulvane and south Wichita. The seat is occupied by Democrat Tim Norton, who is seeking a fifth term.

“Now is the time for a new generation of leadership with fresh ideas and a renewed commitment to the conservative values that define this county and help to make families strong,” O’Donnell said in a news release. “I will use my core values to be a leader and problem solver.

“The challenges we face with property taxes and job growth are unprecedented,” he said. “It will take creative and pro-active leadership, informed by an understanding of both local and state relationships to ensure that we address these challenges.”

O’Donnell said in January that he was considering a run for the County Commission and that he had recently moved to Norton’s commission district.

O’Donnell was elected to the state Senate in 2012 after beating former Sen. Jean Schodorf in a bitter primary. He previously served as a member of the Wichita City Council.

Norton, the commission’s lone Democrat, was first elected in 2000 and is the longest standing commissioner on the county board. Before he joined the commission, he was the mayor of Haysville.

He announced on Facebook earlier this year that he would run for re-election after “lots of conversation about the future and running one more campaign.”

Norton mostly votes in the minority of the commission with Republican Dave Unruh. Commissioners Richard Ranzau, Karl Peterjohn and Jim Howell make up a more conservative commission majority that formed in 2015.

Neither Norton nor O’Donnell returned calls for comment on Tuesday.

The commission seat pays an average of about $91,000 a year, according to the revised 2016 county budget.

The newest member on the Sedgwick County Commission, current chairman Jim Howell, also left the Statehouse to run for a county seat. He joined the commission in 2015.

The only other 2016 commission race is in western Sedgwick County’s District 5. Republican Commissioner Karl Peterjohn faces challenges from David Dennis, a Republican, and Goddard Mayor Marcey Gregory, who is running as an independent.

Wichita school board member Lynn Rogers, a Democrat, has been campaigning for O’Donnell’s Senate seat in District 25 since last year. No Republican has announced plans yet to seek the seat.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar