Baty beats Cruse for County Commission seat; other incumbents win
Jim Howell wins a third term, and Pete Meitzner wins a second term.
Republican Ryan Baty beat incumbent Lacey Cruse in the race for Sedgwick County Commission’s 4th District seat.
The district covers Wichita suburbs Maize, Park City and Valley Center, and stretches into north Wichita and downtown.
The race for the 4th District seat was one of the most competitive and high-profile races. During the election, Cruse’s fellow commissioners and Baty criticized her approach on communicating with commissioners, staff and others in the county.
“Now it's about listening and learning,” Baty said Tuesday night, “… and really trying to find ways that we can collaborate and move forward on some of these big issues."
Baty, who won with 53% of the vote, foundedThe Mattress Hub in 2008 and was previously a minor league baseball player for the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
Cruse waselected in 2018 as a first-time candidate, upsetting incumbent Richard Ranzau. She was the first Democrat to represent the 4th District since the late 1990s. Her defeat leaves Sarah Lopez as the lone Democrat on the commission.
Baty said he expects a smooth transition into the commission.
“I certainly respect Commissioner Cruse, and I feel like she respects me as well, and I’m certain … the relationship moving forward will be fruitful,” Baty said.
Baty raised the most money for his county commission race, according to recent campaign finance reports.
Cruse did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
In a Facebook post Wednesday morning, Cruse conceded the race and said she would move forward with her private life and put her family first.
"Let’s face it," Cruse said in the post. "We live in a society that wants women to listen, not lead."
Howell secures third term on commission
Republican Jim Howell is set to represent the 5th District on the Sedgwick County Commission for a third term.
Howell earned more than 57% of the vote on Tuesday, beating Democrat and former Derby City Councilman John McIntosh by more than 3,700 votes.
Howell says one of his top priorities over the next four years will be improving mental health care for county residents.
“We need to get moving forward on mental health services; that’s a pretty big deal,” he said.
That includes advocating for a state mental health facility to come to Sedgwick County, something that commissioners from both parties have been wanting for years.
Howell also says the county should expand its mobile mental health services, including by looking at private options. The county currently has a program called ICT-1 that pairs a police officer, a social worker and a mental health professional to respond to mental health calls.
“I think we ought to be looking at some privatization for mobile mental health,” he said. “I think right now ICT-1 is certainly an idea that is working, but I think we can work on the efficiency and the effectiveness of that model.”
Howell also says the county needs to improve the workplace culture for its employees and review its ethics policies.
McIntosh, the first Democrat to run for the seat since 2014, thanked his staff and supporters.
“There’s been a lot of people out there helping me out, giving good support and working hard for me, and I appreciate all they’ve done,” he said.
“We ran a solid campaign; we ran it as the truth out there.”
The 5th District includes Derby, Mulvane and much of south Wichita.
Meitzner beats Grant for county commission
Sedgwick County voters chose a seasoned incumbent over a political newcomer to represent the commission’s 1st District.
Unofficial final results from Tuesday night show Republican Pete Meitzner led Democrat Kelli Grant by more than 2,400 votes. Meitzner received 53.5% of the votes.
Meitzner celebrated his victory at the Candle Club, adding he was looking forward to working with newly-elected Republican Ryan Baty.
“Ryan is a very bright person, and he understands collaboration,” Meitzner said. “He understands the job is bigger than just one person. … I’m really excited.”
Meitzner campaigned on the political and business acumen he’s built in the past several decades. He served on the Wichita City Council for two terms before running for county commission in 2018. Before his involvement in local politics, he worked in the telecommunications business.
Meitzner emphasized on Tuesday night that he would focus on public safety, mental health and homelessness in his next term.
“We’ve got to support the sheriff and the DA,” Meitzner said. “We’ve got to support everything we do - 911, ambulance, all those building blocks - so you all can be safe, live your life and not have to worry about that stuff.”
Grant watched election night results roll in from the Sky Lounge alongside other Democrats like treasurer candidate Lynn Rogers. She told KMUW before results came in that she felt she ran a good race.
“I’m so thankful for all the volunteers,” Grant said. “All the dollars were met with gratitude. We maximized every dollar that came into this campaign. … I hope that our community felt the impact of some of these issues we were talking about.”
Wednesday morning, Grant said that the campaign brought to her attention some major issues in Sedgwick County - namely, domestic violence.
“I think we need to keep that conversation going,” Grant said. “And I hope the people who got elected will use their positions, their skills, and work on some of these issues that the campaign raised.”
Grant is a small business owner and a candidate for a doctorate in sociology at Wichita State University. She has also worked as an employee in multiple county departments, including COMCARE and Department of Corrections.
In an interview with KMUW before the election, Grant said her priorities included access to abortion, public safety, mental health services and staffing challenges at the county.