Johnson County voters join nation’s conservative trend
Johnson County voters were apparently of like mind with those across the country Tuesday in both the importance of voting and who should lead.
Joining a general conservative tide, county voters, with one notable exception, favored Republicans -- many of a conservative slant.
The county saw 252,224 residents vote in the election, which was good for a 72-percent turnout of registered voters. That compared to 50.2-percent in the November 2002 general election and a near 70-percent turnout in November 2000, when 218,486 county residents voted.
Although figures for De Soto were unavailable at press time, officials at all three city polling places said they had recorded near 50-percent turnout at about 4 p.m., three hours before polls closed and before the peak after-work crush.
After about a 20-minute wait in line to vote at the De Soto Baptist Church, Sheila Mayabb said she was especially motivated to vote this year because of the presidential race.
"I voted for President Bush," she said. "I'm not too concerned. I think he's going to win it."
With 9-year-old son Gabe and 6-year-old daughter Kyra for company, Krista Skoog also endured a short wait at the church to vote for Bush.
"This was the first presidential election I've voted in De Soto," she said. "We moved from Olathe. I'm used to lines there."
The two women joined a strong majority of Johnson County voters in supporting the president. Bush and running mate Dick Cheney easily carried Johnson County over Democratic challengers John Kerry and John Edwards. The incumbents recorded a 61 percent majority, taking the county by more that 58,000 votes.
Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore bucked the conservative trend to win re-election to the 3rd District congressional seat.
But this election was different for Moore. In his first three victories, Moore used huge pluralities in Wyandotte County to overcome deficits in Johnson County. This year, Moore defeated Republican challenger Kris Kobach, who openly wore the conservative mantle, in Johnson County. Moore earned slightly more than 50 percent of the vote in Johnson County, defeating Kobach by 5,000 votes.
In the race for the 9th District Kansas Senate seat, Kay O'Connor won a second term to represent the district, which includes De Soto, with an easy victory over Democratic challenger Mike Boatright. Unofficial numbers show O'Connor with 19,251 votes to Boatright's 12,788.
"As expected," O'Connor said. "If I'd worked harder, I could have had a bigger percentage. But I had a hard primary, and I had several things on the back burner I needed to attend to."
Her race was determined early enough in the evening that O'Connor could track other races to learn if conservatives would wrest control of the Senate from party moderates. For that to happen, moderate Republicans would have to lose to Democratic challengers.
"If the conservatives take over, it would lay the groundwork for a new vision and direction in the Senate to lead the state in the right direction," she said.
There was no contest Tuesday in De Soto for the Kansas House. Anthony Brown of Eudora was uncontested after defeating Tom Marsh of Olathe in August's Republican primary.
In what was a case of piling on, Johnson County voters rejected the Bi-State II proposal by more than 24,000 votes. Bi-State was on the ballot in five Kansas City metropolitan area counties but only managed to win in Jackson County, Mo.
That outcome pleased another of Tuesday's winners. John Toplikar made Bi-State an issue in his campaign for re-election to the 6th District Johnson County Commission seat. Toplikar vowed to seek support on the Commission for a measure that would give county residents the opportunity to vote on opting out of the Bi-State Cultural Compact.
Aligned with the conservative wing of the Republican Party during his years representing Olathe in the Kansas House, Toplikar made fiscal restraint in his two years on the Commission.
In the race for Johnson County sheriff, Frank Denning said he thought his local law enforcement experience was one reason voters chose him over Democrat Terry Morgan.
"A lot of it is based on my credibility, my track record here," Denning said.
"I think all of those were brought out in our campaign platform, in our message," he said. "I think the people in the county had an opportunity to look at our records, and they based their decision on that."
Despite a heated Republican primary race against incumbent Sheriff Currie Myers, Denning, a former County undersheriff, said he expected a smooth transition.