To put it mildly, primary election day in Kansas was interesting. That’s one of those words you use when you’re trying to be as un-opinionated as possible, but still want to shake your head in disgust.
Here are just a few of the winners, losers, and things that even took cynics like us by surprise.
The big loser has to be the Johnson County Election Office. Due to issues with their machines, Kansans waited all night to get the final, but still unofficial, count in the Kansas gubernatorial race.
For the second time in two years, election night tabulation problems in Johnson County led to delays in voting results, leaving the outcomes of key races in limbo.
The problems occurred despite — or possibly because of — the county’s $10.5 million acquisition of new voting machines with paper ballots to replace its 15-year-old machines.
Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker told KCUR 89.3 that technicians from the machines’ manufacturer were brought in to work on the problems, “but unfortunately it has not functioned as it was reported that it should.”
“It’s been slow and tedious,” Metsker said. “We will get to the bottom of that. We trust them and we’re confident that this will be an excellent system once we get these bugs worked out.”
In 2016, Johnson County was the last county in the state to report its election totals. Metsker attributed the delay then to a software glitch in the tabulation software as well as a “huge influx” of advance mail ballots and voters registering for the first time or changing their registration.
The county’s 2016 vote totals didn’t get reported until about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the day after the election.
In a statement released around 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Johnson County Election Office said that unofficial results were posted on its website shortly before 8 a.m.
“We understand that the delay was frustrating to our community and agree that such delays are unacceptable,” the statement read. “Our first priority was reporting unofficial final results to our voters. We are working with the vendor to identify the cause of the delay, resolve the issue, and ensure the problem does not happen again.”
Wichita AME pastor LeSean Tarkington went against tradition in the African-American community and challenged one-term incumbent 89th House Representative K.C. Oheaebosim. It didn’t go so well for Tarkington, who earned 17.1% of the vote to Ohaebosim’s 66.3%. The balance of the votes went to Marty Keenan, who some feared might pull an upset. With Ohaebosim and Tarkington battling for the “Black vote,” some feared Keenan, a Caucasian, might end up the winner of this seat, which has been occupied by an African American for decades.
Former Wichita School board member Michael Kinard was upset by Lacy Cruse, a relative political newcomer, in their Democratic primary for the Sedgwick County Commission. Kinard, who was recently defeated in his bid for a seat on the Wichita City Council, had name recognition, but it didn’t pan out. Although we have seen the voting map by precinct, it’s pretty easy to draw a conclusion about the roots of Kinard’s defeat: poor turnout in the Black community and strong support in predominantly White areas for Cruse, a White female.
Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer didn’t win, but he had a respectable showing in a rare run in a statewide race by an African American. Brewer finished in second place, ahead of Western Kansas farmer Josh Svaty. Brewer ran a quality campaign despite only modest financial contributions. As was expected, he was gracious in defeat. We can only hope that if Kelly wins, there’s a place for a strong leader like Brewer in her administration.
We almost want to put Sharice Davids’ win in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary in the surprise category, but instead we’re putting in the win column, because a victory from a quality candidate who ran a professional grassroots campaign shouldn’t be considered a surprise. Davids, a Native American from humble beginnings, is a Cornell University Law School graduate and former White House Fellow. She’s the kind of candidate Johnson and Wyandotte Country residents can get behind to help oust incumbent Kevin Yoder.
Just hours after winning the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas, political newcomer Sharice Davids stood on stage with her former rivals. All of them pledged to work together to oust incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder in November. FYI, Davids identifies as LBGTQ.
To no one’s surprise, James Thompson was an easy winner in the Democratic Primary for the 4th Congressional District. However, we were a little surprised at how well his opponent Laura Lombard did. More than 10,000 (35%) votes were cast for Lombard. Although his showing was strong, after supporting appearances in Wichita by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pulled off` a big upset against top House Democrat Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District, we expected a trouncing.
Wyandotte County had one of the few (if not the only) Democratic primaries in a judicial race. In a tight three-way race, Tony Martinez came out on top with 40% of the vote. Jane Sieve Wilson was second with 35% and Mike Nichols earning 26% of the votes.
Kansas City, Kansas, residents voted to renew a 3/8-cent public safety sales tax — 60% voted in support, while 40%- opposed the tax which was set to expire in 2020. Revenue from the tax is divided between the fire department, the police department and neighborhood improvement projects.
The sales tax, which has funded the addition of 25 police officers and new public safety equipment, is set to expire in 2020 unless voters renew the tax for an additional ten years.
We were surprised by just how close the results were in the Republican primary for governor. After Johnson County finally got their votes in, fewer than 200 votes separated them.
If Colyer goes on to lose by the current margin “it will actually be the closest loss for any gubernatorial incumbent candidate in any primary ever,” said Geoffrey Skelley, political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, whose research dates back to the 19th Century, told the Wichita Eagle.
Surprise, it could be weeks until we have a winner in the Republican gubernatorial race. Counties first must go through provisional ballots and mail-in ballots that were post-marked before Election Day.
Kobach’s office estimated that there were between 8,000 to 10,000 provisional ballots across the state that needed to be reviewed. The candidate that’s behind after those ballots are counted can initiate a recount. That candidate would have to file a bond with the Secretary of State’s Office (oops, that’s Kobach) to cover the cost of a recount at a price set by the Secretary of State (again Kobach). If a candidate wins following a recount, no action would be taken on the bond.
Republican legislative leaders said last Wednesday morning that a recount is almost certain and it could possibly take weeks. This is starting to sound a lot like the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and Bush. This could get messy. Remember, the U.S. Supreme Court finally had to get involved to resolve that election.
It’s not surprising that Kris Kobach initially said as Secretary of State, the head of Kansas elections, he wouldn’t recuse himself from the recount process. We’re not surprised because we’re rarely surprised by Kobach’s actions anymore. However Kobach says the law doesn’t require him to recuse himself, so he won’t, even if it doesn’t look good.
“The recount thing is done on a county level, so the secretary of state does not actually participate directly in the recount,” Kobach said at a campaign event on Aug. 8. “The secretary of state’s office merely serves as a coordinating entity overseeing it all but not actually counting the votes.”
While officials agree that the law doesn’t require Kobach to recuse himself, legal and political experts suggest he should do so to maintain at least the perception of trust in the process.
He changed course on Friday, after the governor officially asked him to recuse himself.
As of Friday, Kobach was leading by 82 votes.