Candidacy Challenge Dismissed In Lopez-O'Donnell Sedgwick County Commission Race

Aug 24, 2020

Democrat Sarah Lopez is running against incumbent Michael O'Donnell to represent District 2 on the Sedgwick County Commission.
Credit Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service/File photo

A panel of Sedgwick County leaders dismissed an effort to remove a Democratic candidate from a Sedgwick County Commission race.

The panel of three officials ruled Monday that Sarah Lopez will remain on the ballot for the 2nd District county commission seat. She is running against Republican Michael O’Donnell, who is seeking a second term.

Former O’Donnell campaign worker John Whitmer, a Republican, filed an objection with the county election office last week questioning whether Lopez lived in the 2nd District.

An investigation found no evidence to support the claim, and instead provided documents to confirm that Lopez is a resident in the district she seeks to represent.

The panel — made up of Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, Sheriff Jeff Easter and Sedgwick County Elections Deputy Sandra Gritz — ruled unanimously to drop the candidacy challenge and allow Lopez to continue her run for office. 

Lopez says even though the allegation was baseless, she’s glad the matter is resolved.

"I knew when this was filed last week that they didn’t have any proof that I lived somewhere else because I know I don’t," she said. "So I knew this was a silly claim to begin with."

Lopez moved into a rental home in the district in February, and said her kids are enrolled in Haysville schools.

Whitmer serves as a Republican precinct committeman, and told investigators he filed the challenge after anonymous sources mentioned there could be an issue with Lopez’s residency status. Whitmer declined to attend the hearing.

O’Donnell laid the groundwork for his campaign against Lopez in interviews following his primary election win earlier this month. He challenged Lopez’s roots in the district.

“We have to expose what the Democrats are trying to do by taking someone who is a lifetime resident of north Wichita and moving her into the district to steal our seat away from us, and steal away the interest of southwest Wichita, Haysville and Clearwater," he said. said.

O’Donnell did not attend the hearing.

Lopez called the candidacy challenge a political stunt.

“I’m just grateful that it’s over, that we can move on and that I’m obviously still on the ballot for November,” Lopez said.

The panel decided to assess a fine of $175 to Whitmer for initiating an investigation without providing proof to substantiate the allegation.

The general election is Nov. 3.