With the June 1 filing deadline behind them many of the Kansas’ African-American legislators find themselves in an unusual position – they’re facing Republican opposition.

It’s been a while since a Republican or a Democrat has stepped in to run against most of the seven African-American Democrats in the Kansas Legislature. Republicans may have assumed a run in their heavily African-American and Democratic districts was an almost a sure defeat. However, this year, Republicans appear up for the fight.

Five of the seven Black legislators will face-off against a Republican opponent in November’s election. From Wichita, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Rep. Gail Finney and Rep. K.C. Ohaebosim will have opposition in the general election.

In Kansas City, Sen. David Haley will have a Republican opponent in November. Rep. Broderick Henderson has to survive in the August primary against a Democratic opponent before he can take on the Republican contender. Running against him in the Democratic Primary is long-time KCK community activist and pastor, Nelson Gabriel, who has considerable name recognition.

KC Rep. Valdenia Winn and Lawrence Rep. Barbara Ballard are the only two Black Democrat incumbents who are without opposition and have virtually secured their position for another term.

Instead of filing for his current seat, Republican Rep. Willie Dove, from Bonner Springs, has instead filed for a seat in the Kansas Senate and will face off against Democratic incumbent Sen. Tom Holland in November.

Legal Seats

Recently appointed District Court Judge Monique Centeno already has to compete to hold onto her seat. She was appointed last year by Gov. Laura Kelly to fill a vacant seat in the 18th District Court, which serves Sedgwick County. While these judicial races, which are partisan, rarely draw competitors, Democrats – often appointed by Democratic governors – quickly draw a Republican competitor. That’s the case for Centeno. She is currently the only Democrat serving in the 18th District, Sedgwick County. She is one of just two judges who have an opponent in the November election.

In heavily democratic Wyandotte County, incumbent District Attorney Mark Dupree has drawn competition in his Democratic primary, and no opposition in the general election. He’ll face off against Kristiane Bryant, an experienced prosecutor who has worked in the State Attorney General’s Office and in the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office, rising to the ranks of Deputy Chief Prosecutor. She currently works as a prosecutor for Kansas City’s Jackson County.

New Faces – Wichita

In Wichita, a number of new candidates have filed to run in districts not typically identified as “Black” or Democratic. That might prove to be beneficial for both Patrick Penn and Pastor Wade Moore, who are both Republican candidates. Penn must first get through the primary against incumbent Michael Capps, who drew the ire of the state Republican Party after he was linked to an attack video that surfaced against then-candidate, now mayor, Brandon Whipple during his campaign for office.

If Penn gets past Capps, he’ll face off against popular Goddard Mayor Marcey Gregory.

Another newcomer, Carol Brewer, is running as a Democrat for a seat in the Kansas House. Brewer, the daughter of former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, has filed to compete in the 98th District, which covers a larger part of South and Central Wichita. In a repeat of their 2018 primary, current Rep. Ron Howard, with face-off against form Rep. Steven Crum in the Republican primary. Brewer will face the winner of that race.

New Faces – Kansas City Area

Stacey Robinson Knoell from Olathe has filed to run as a Democrat for a seat in the Kansas Senate. She’ll take on conservative incumbent Julia Lynn. If Knoell is willing to do the hard work, she might be able to pull this one off.

Rashard Young, yet another Black Republican, is running for a Kansas House seat in Overland Park. He’ll meet a Democrat in this race for an open seat. This is the other side of politics for Young, who was a campaign coordinator for Yoder for Congress and currently works in the Office of Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner as his director of outreach.

I’m not sure it’s fair to call Darnell Hunt a new face. He’s run unsuccessfully before for a seat in the Kansas House. He’ll face against a Democrat in the primary and if he prevails there will pair up against a one-term incumbent Republican.

Joanna Sholtz, a Democrat and the branch president for the NAACP Leavenworth Branch, is taking on an incumbent in her bid to represent Leavenworth in the Kansas House.

A Few Others

Former Wichita School Board member Betty Arnold is running for the 8th District seat on the Kansas State School Board as a Republican. She’ll compete against the Republican incumbent Kathy Busch, if she prevails over her Republican primary competition.

Finally, Alex Tyson has filed to run for the District 2 seat on the Geary County (Junction City) County Commission. Tyson, a Democrat will face off against one-term incumbent Charles Stimatze. In 2016, Stimatze narrowly defeated Larry Hicks, who at the time was the only elected African-American county commissioner in the state of Kansas – not including Wyandotte County, which has a unique city/county format. If he’s elected, Tyson will once again be the only African-American county commissioner In the state.

Let us not forget consistent candidate Robert Tillman, who this time is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate. He’s up against a well-financed competitor, Dr.Barbara Bollier. The winner of their race will face off against the Republican candidate who survives the nine-way battle. They’re fighting for the seat being vacated by the retiring Pat Roberts.

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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