Archive for Thursday, August 5, 2004

O’Connor, Denning prevail in primaries

August 5, 2004

— The fractured state of the Republican Party in Johnson County was illustrated late Tuesday when the Johnson County Election Office's Web site posted numbers in the U.S. 3rd District congressional primary, which showed conservative Kris Kobach and moderate Adam Taff both had 31,715 votes.

Results for Douglas, Wyandotte and Miami counties indicated Kobach had a 63-vote lead in a race that is headed for a recount (See related story, Page 5B).

But the congressional contest was far from unique as the conservative candidates battled moderates in close races up and down the ballot in what has become a bi-annual rite for the party. Both factions scored notable successes.

The GOP moderates' big winner in the county Tuesday was Frank Denning. The former undersheriff with ties to the longtime regime of Sheriff Fred Allenbrand and John Foster ousted the man appointed sheriff in his place 18 months ago at a party caucus dominated by conservatives.

Unofficial election results show Denning beat Sheriff Lynn Myers 39,278 to 35,575.

"We're thrilled for the results," Denning said. "Quite frankly we thought it would be close. It was close, and we're pleased with the results.

"We have one more race to do. The election team is going to take a couple of days off and plan our strategy to go from here."

Denning said he wasn't taking anything for granted in heavily Republican Johnson County and would be prepared for his Democratic opponent.

Still, Denning said he would start planning his transition team headed by David Burger, a captain in the Lenexa Police Department. Burger would serve as undersheriff should he be elected, Denning said.

In a local race that garnered a good deal of state interest because of its personalities, expense and its importance in determining which wing of the party will control the Kansas Senate, incumbent Sen. Kay O'Connor held off a challenge from Rob Boyer to win the Republican nomination in the 9th Senate District. Boyer had given up his 38th District House seat to run for the position in the upper house.

O'Connor said Wednesday she wasn't surprised by her 717--vote victory, which was a bit larger than her win over Rich Becker four years ago when she first won the Senate seat.

"My opponent had a terrible problem without incumbency in 78 percent of the district," she said. "Those people didn't know who he was."

Still, O'Connor said she worked hard, including a 12-hour walk of the district Saturday. Her race was helped by a "huge army" of volunteers, many of whom have helped her in campaigns for the last 12 years, she said.

O'Connor will move on to the general election to face Mike Boatright, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. O'Connor said she knew nothing of her opponent, but acknowledged she was starting with a huge advantage in name recognition and organization.

She was confident enough Wednesday to discuss one item on her legislative agenda for next year.

"I'm going to spend my time with an academic from Wichita working on a brand-new school finance formula," she said. "I want to have it ready for presentation in January.

"I hope it will be embraceable by all sides and fulfill Judge (Terry) Bullock's request without spending a billion dollars and increase local control."

Boyer said before the election that a 32 percent turnout in the district would greatly help his chances.

"It wasn't what we hoped it would be," he said Wednesday. "It was 28 percent in the district."

A lot of De Soto residents were at his election night gathering, Boyer said.

"I'm disappointed I won't be there for De Soto," he said. "I have a lot of good, close friends over there.

"I have got some projects to wrap up for De Soto before my term ends, so I'll be around."

Boyer said he would now take time with his wife and family and then get involved in his business day to day.

In Boyer's old 38th District House seat, Anthony Brown of Eudora rode his strength in his home Douglas County to victory over Tom Marsh of Olathe. With no Democrat in the district, Brown can focus on the legislative session, which starts next January.

"Eudora and Douglas County really stepped up for me," Brown said Wednesday. "At first glance, you think Eudora really stands behind its own."

As pleased as he was with his Douglas County effort, Brown said he connected with voters in Johnson County during his months of walking the district's neighborhoods. He found voters receptive in Shawnee, Lenexa and even in Marsh's home in the Cedar Creek subdivision of Olathe, Brown said.

With no Democrat in the 38th District general election, the primary victory put Brown into the legislature, where in January he will be the first Eudora resident to serve since David Miller's term ended in 1991.

Brown said with no campaign of his own, he would help with those of other Republican House members. On the top of that list is the campaign of Rich Lorenzo who is challenging Democrat Tom Holland in the 10th House District that included Brown's hometown of Baldwin City.

Carol Lehman and incumbent John Toplikar moved on to the November general election in the non-partisan 6th District County Commission race. As she was two years ago, Ramona Allenbrand was eliminated with a third-place finish in the three-way race.

Toplikar's primary victory was stronger than his first-place finish in the three-way 2002 primary when he garnered 43 percent of the vote. Toplikar went on to win his general election match up with Chuck Kurtz by a comfortable margin.

This time, a majority (53 percent) voted for Toplikar. Lehman was a distant second with 24 percent of the vote.

Lehman was ready to move to the head-to-head general election after what she called a very satisfying primary.

"It's just time for me to gather my supporters together and get to work," she said. "I have to sit down and strategize and see where our strengths are and weaknesses are and proceed from there."

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