“Explosive elections ahead”

The following article appeared in the Johnson County Sun.

“Explosive elections ahead”
Steve Rose
Johnson County Sun

The filing deadline is still a couple of months away, but rumors are ripe that we will see an explosive local election season, including some real bombshells. Hold on to your helmets.

The most startling race will be an effort by former Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert, a political moderate, to unseat incumbent County Commissioner Dolores Furtado, another moderate. There had been rumors that a conservative was going to challenge Furtado in this non-partisan race, but that may change, now that Eilert is in the race. Furtado, a one-term commissioner from the mid-northeast part of the county, who is a professor of microbiology, has done a good job, yet the bets are that few in her district even know her name. Although little of this district is in Overland Park, Eilert still has the advantage of high name recognition. This will be a dandy race to watch. Either way, the county cannot lose.

Another county commissioner, Doug Wood, may find himself in the race of his life. Wood, who is serving his eighth year as a commissioner from Olathe, has made a lot of enemies, particularly when he became the vocal advocate for the Oz project. His opponent, Kathy Huttmann, is a highly respected three-term city councilwoman from Olathe who has also served two years on the Olathe Planning Commission. The word on the street is that Huttmann can pull off a primary victory, because the outspoken and controversial Commissioner Wood has alienated much of the Olathe leadership and many of his constituents.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore may get a virtual free pass in November if his only Republican opposition is State Rep. Scott Schwab from Olathe. Some say the unknown Schwab is a sacrificial lamb, recruited by Republicans to put up somebody to challenge Moore. It is safe to assume Schwab will be rewarded somehow by the GOP for his gallant effort.

With Schwab’s state rep seat opening up, an ambitious – no, that would be an understatement – a highly ambitious Ben Hodge may run for that seat. Hodge, you will recall, is the 20-something trustee at the community college who upset the applecart when he came out of nowhere to win the seat two years ago. Word is, he is moving to reside in Schwab’s district, so he can file there. If elected, he would serve in two posts, as a legislator and as a JCCC trustee. An avowed right-winger, it is doubtful young Mr. Hodge, a full-time college student, will face opposition either in the Republican primary or the general. He reflects the Olathe district’s politics like a mirror.

With State Rep. Eric Carter trying to move up to insurance commissioner – a highly risky proposition against a strong Republican incumbent, Sandy Praeger — that leaves his Blue Valley area seat open. Dr. Jeff Colyer, two-time loser as a candidate for Congress, is ready to pounce on the seat in the Republican primary.

Incumbent state Rep. Patricia Kilpatrick, an incumbent in the Blue Valley area, will have her hands full with Sheryl Spalding itching for a run at the seat in the primary. Spalding is a former Blue Valley School Board member with lots of connections and would be a fierce campaigner. Could be an upset in the making. State Rep. Ray Merrick, Stilwell, the legislator who screamed for local control of schools and then voted against the House bill that did just that, may get a long-shot primary contender, Brad Wagner, a former unsuccessful candidate for the BV School Board.

With State Rep. David Huff, from Lenexa, retiring, the open seat so far has only attracted Ron Worley, a former city employee. It’s a surprise conservatives have no horse in this race, so far.

The hot race to watch will happen in November. Incumbent far-right conservative, state Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook from Shawnee will face off against moderate Cynthia Neighbor, who has switched parties from Republican to Democrat. Neighbor, a Shawnee Mission School Board member, defeated Cook four years ago, but Cook came right back and took the seat in the next election. Neighbor figures she can skip the conservative-dominated Republican primary and do better in November.

Note these are early strong rumors. Things could still change before filing deadline in June.