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Kansas Parties To Select Candidates For 4th District Special Election


Kansas’ political parties are meeting this week to select their candidates for the 4th Congressional District special election.

Party members are choosing their nominees to replace Mike Pompeo, the newly confirmed head of the CIA. And unlike a regular election, there's no primary to decide which candidates will end up on the April 11 ballot. The state's three parties will each hold a nominating convention, but they won’t all look the same:

Credit Ballotpedia.org
The 4th Congressional District in southeast Kansas.


Republicans are first up: The district convention will be held Thursday at Friends University. The event is open to the public, but it will be up to the district’s 126 delegates -- including 66 from Sedgwick County -- to select a nominee from at least five confirmed candidates: state Treasurer Ron Estes, Wichita attorney George Bruceformer 4th District Rep. Todd Tiahrt, former Donald Trump adviser Alan Cobb, and former talk-show host Joseph Ashby. More candidates could step forward if they have the backing of at least two delegates: one to nominate, and one to second the nomination.

Delegates will have a chance to make a nominating speech; candidates will be given five minutes to speak to the crowd. Delegates will then vote until one person reaches 64 votes.


Democrats will follow a similar procedure at their district convention Saturday, which will be held at the Sedgwick County Courthouse and is open to the public. Kerry Gooch, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, says the committee will set the rules the day of the convention.

He says the 4th District has 55 delegates, 20 of them from Sedgwick County, the largest county in the district. Candidates need the backing of a nominating delegate; so far, former state Treasurer Dennis McKinney, Andover police officer Charlie Walker, Wichita businesswoman Laura Lombard, former USD 259 school board member Kevass Harding and former 4th District candidate Robert Tillman have all stepped forward.

Delegates will vote on paper ballot until one candidate reaches a majority.


Libertarians do things slightly differently: At their nominating convention on Saturday, held at the Wichita Public Library Alford Branch, any registered member of the party from the 4th District will be able to vote for a nominee. Three candidates will speak at the event: former 4th District candidate Gordon Bakken, FlightSafety instructor Chris Rockhold and John Costner, of Murdock.

Independents, meanwhile, have until Feb. 18 to turn in a petition to run. Each candidate needs to collect signatures from 3,000 registered voters in the district – down from 17,000 after the Kansas Legislature passed a bill last month changing the special election process.

And after the ballot is set, the focus turns to the voters: Democratic leader Kerry Gooch says the party has already started reaching out around the district to garner support. The deadline to register to vote in the special election is March 21.

This post was updated Feb. 8 at 6:26 p.m. to reflect Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner's decision to withdraw from the Republican race:


Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx.

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

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.