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Politics
00000179-cdc6-d978-adfd-cfc6d7d40002Coverage of the issues, races and people shaping Kansas elections in 2016, including statewide coverage in partnership with KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, and High Plains Public Radio.

Sedgwick County Commission Candidates Forum Hints At Changes To Come

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Deborah Shaar
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KMUW
Tim Norton speaks at a Sedgwick County Commission candidate forum alongside Marcey Gregory and David Dennis.

Three of the four candidates running for the Sedgwick County Commission participated in a forum on community issues Saturday.

The candidates told the audience of about 40 people that if they’re elected, they would take community concerns to heart.

Commissioner Tim Norton is trying for a fifth term to represent the commission’s 2nd District.

"I’m hoping that a new majority, and I hope I’m included in that, will think more about what citizens want," he said.

Norton’s challenger, Republican Kansas state Sen. Michael O’Donnell, did not attend the forum.

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Credit Deborah Shaar / KMUW
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KMUW
Third District Republican candidate David Dennis speaks to attendees at Saturday's forum.

The 3rd District seat currently held by Karl Peterjohn is also up for election. Republican David Dennis, a retired teacher and Air Force Colonel, defeated Peterjohn in the August primary.

"You can’t sit on that bench with five people and already know what the decision is going to be, and that’s what we’ve had for the last two years," Dennis said.

Independent candidate Marcey Gregory, the current mayor of Goddard, is also running for the 3rd District.

"You get a group in there that wants to listen to you, we’re going to work to make whatever changes you deem necessary or deem important," she said.

The three candidates talked about their positions on county budget issues, the property tax lid, the new concealed carry law and the county’s relationship with the City of Wichita.

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Credit Deborah Shaar / KMUW
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KMUW
A crowd of about 40 people listen as three candidates for the Sedgwick County Commission speak at a forum on Saturday.

The candidates said they're hoping their experience and history with city leaders will bring more collaboration in the future. Norton cited his long relationship with the mayor and city leaders, while Gregory said she hopes to continue reaching out to leaders in all of the cities in the 3rd District.

"The best approach to everything is partnering and everybody being at the same table and working together towards the common good for all of our communities," Gregory said. "I think that’s the most important thing we can do."

Dennis said his experience and history with city leaders throughout the county will lead to more cooperation--if he’s elected to the county commission.

"When we are working with the smaller cities, there’s something called Zoning Area of Influence, that some of you may have heard of, that the current majority [on the Sedgwick County Commission] was trying to eliminate. During my time on the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, I was able to work out a compromise that we didn’t keep exactly what we had before, but we didn’t eliminate it either," he said.

Audience members asked questions on a variety of topics such as the Sedgwick County Health Department, immigrants, the county’s e-cigarette policy and the candidates’ qualifications to serve on the commission. The candidates’ answers throughout the forum suggest that November’s election will likely bring a new majority to the Sedgwick County Commission. For the past two years, Peterjohn joined fellow Republicans Jim Howell and Richard Ranzau to form a conservative majority.

The Wichita chapter of Women for Kansas sponsored the non-partisan forum at the Wichita Public Library downtown. Chapter President Martha Pint said O’Donnell told a group member that he was not attending the forum because he had concerns about whether the moderator would be fair.

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Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.