Sedgwick County Republicans have a chance to do the decent thing and avoid the spectacle of a rump county commissioner.
Rump: a small or inferior remnant or offshoot
especially: a group (such as a parliament) carrying on in the name of the original body after the departure or expulsion of a large number of its members
(from Oxford languages)
Now that the vote canvass is complete in Sedgwick County, Sarah Lopez has won the seat for Sedgwick County Commissioner, District 2. The vote count is 17,041 for Lopez and 16,777 for the incumbent Michael O’Donnell, a margin of 264 votes.
O’Donnell is within his rights to ask for (and pay for) a recount, but that is unlikely to change the outcome of the election based on recent experience. In the August 2018 primary election in a different commission district, the loser asked for and paid for a recount. All the ballots were counted by hand, at the precinct level, in a laborious process. In the end, not a single mistake was found.
So Sarah Lopez will become the new commissioner on January 10, 2021. The question is: What to do now? That question needs an answer, because O’Donnell resigned from the office last week. There currently is no commissioner for District 2.
The normal course of events, as prescribed by Kansas law (K.S.A. 25-3902), is that the precinct committeemen and committeewomen in county commission district 2 meet and select a successor to serve the remainder of O’Donnell’s term. Because he was elected as a member of the Republican Party, it is the Republican committeemen/women who make the selection.
It is possible, therefore, that a person will serve as a county commissioner for less than a two-month period, as there are 55 days until January 10. It will take some time to meet and make a selection, as law requires a notice period of seven days or more.
It is unwise to appoint someone to serve in an office for such a short period. It would be a term of perhaps eight weeks at the most, and some of those weeks will be holiday weeks, in which there are no commission meetings. There will be costs to the county. News stories will cover a term of office that will have no meaningful consequence.
But there must be a nominating meeting, and within 14 days, says Kansas law.
The decent and reasonable thing to do is for the nominating convention to meet and select Sarah Lopez to fill the remainder of the term. It is already decided that she will become the commissioner on January 10. It would make sense for her to start her term early, thereby avoiding a lot of time and effort for no good reason. We could avoid a rump.
We should remember that the vacancy in the District 2 commission office arose from the corruption of the immediate past officeholder. He was about to be subject to ouster procedures. He lost his bid for re-election to Sarah Lopez.
We should put this episode behind us, and place Lopez in office now.