Surbaugh survives in race for county chair
Annabeth Surbaugh won re-election Tuesday as chair of the Johnson County Commission with a narrow victory over challenger Charlotte O'Hara.
The race was a rematch of 2002, when Surbaugh was the first person elected to the newly created position with 60 percent of the vote. But this year's results were much closer, with Surbaugh winning with 50.48 percent. Just 1,726 votes separated the two candidates out of 160,805 votes cast.
"That's pretty close -- 1.1 percent," O'Hara said Tuesday. "If the race had been held today, I would have won. I just couldn't overcome that 5,000 vote deficit in advance voting."
O'Hara said she had called Surbaugh to congratulate her on the win. She said she was not inclined to ask for a recount, realizing 1,700 would be a lot of votes to overcome.
Surbaugh attributed the close vote to the money O'Hara spent on campaign advertising, the effectiveness of negative campaigning against her and the soccer initiative on the ballot. The vote to allow the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District to raise its mill levy to help pay for a professional and youth soccer complex in Overland Park lost by more than 52,000 votes.
"The people I talked to tonight seemed to think soccer had a lot to do with it," she said. "It was very unpopular. It brought out the anti-tax people she appealed to.
"Johnson County government got blamed for that even though the parks and recreation board put it on the ballot. It was guilt by association."
There was one change on the commission. Former Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert beat Dolores Furtado in the 4th Commission District. Incumbent Doug Wood of Olathe overcame a strong challenge from Kathleen Huttman to retain his 5th District position, and Ed Peterson won easy re-election in the 1st District of northeast Johnson County.
O'Hara said Tuesday results meld a voting block of Wood, John Toplikar, Dave Lindstrom and Eilert on the commission that would be much more attuned to fiscal restraint.
"It will be interesting to see what happens," she said. "We are at the point of tax fatigue. I think that was proven by the soccer vote."