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David Dennis Apparent Winner Over Hunter Larkin In County's 3rd District Race

Fernando Salazar
Wichita Journalism Collaborative
Commissioner David Dennis watches as results come in Tuesday night at his home.

Updated Wednesday at 3:44 p.m. to reflect Hunter Larkin's new role as mayor of Goddard

Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis is the apparent winner of the Republican primary for the county’s 3rd District seat.

With mail-in ballots still to be counted through the end of the week, Dennis leads Goddard Mayor Hunter Larkin with close to 54% of the vote. Dennis received 7,575 votes; Larkin received 6,482 with all 55 precincts reporting.

"I wasn't expecting anything different," Dennis said after the unofficial results were posted. "I was hoping that the citizens understood that for the last four years I've been working hard for them and that we've still got a lot of work to do for behavioral health, public safety and infrastructure."

Credit Mike Iuen for Sedgwick County Facebook
Mike Iuen is the Democratic candidate for the 3rd District seat on the Sedgwick County Commision.

Dennis will move on to the general election race where he’ll face Democrat Mike Iuen, a former television reporter and first-time political candidate who ran unopposed.

Dennis said his track record will set him apart in that race.

"I've done a lot of things in my lifetime and have the experience and the leadership ability to take our county into the next level," he said.

Dennis has represented the 3rd District, which spans much of the western part of the county, since 2016 after he unseated incumbent Karl Peterjohn in the primary and beat independent Marcey Gregory in the general election.

Prior to running for county commission, Dennis served on the Kansas State Board of Education and on the Wichita City Council District 5 Advisory Board.

The race between Dennis and Larkin was largely distinguished by differing stances on the county’s COVID-19 pandemic response. While Larkin advocated for more personal liberty and fewer county restrictions, Dennis said the county’s mask order was “made as a strong recommendation."

“I had faith in my fellow human beings that they would follow that,” he said in an interview with KMUW last month. “Unfortunately they didn’t and our numbers kept going up.”

Dennis commended Larkin Tuesday night, saying he "ran a great race. I respect him.

"I truly appreciate that the community's given me the trust to see if I can move our county forward for another four years."

A Republican has held the 3rd District seat for at least the last two decades. The county election office will continue to count mail-in ballots as they come in through Friday.

Changes in Goddard leadership

Larkin, who previously served as the Goddard City Council president, was named the city's mayor this week following the abrupt resignation of former Mayor Jamey Blubaugh on Monday at the end of a council meeting. Blubaugh cited "ongoing conflicts" with city administrator Brad Silcott.

On Wednesday, the Sedgwick County District Attorney's office announced Blubaugh is facing misdemeanor counterfeiting charges related to counterfeit tickets to the 2019 Zoobilee, an annual fundraiser for the Sedgwick County Zoo. Blubaugh was elected mayor in November.

"We understand that the former Mayor, who resigned Monday, August 3, 2020, is facing serious criminal charges," the city said in a statement released on social media. "We also understand that these charges have no connection with any official action of the former Mayor.

"These issues are entirely unconnected to the City ... and the City expects no disruption to the functioning of City government."

Larkin is also serving his first term on the council. 

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.