A legislative committee agreed today that Democrat Gene Rardin of Overland Park won the contested election to the Kansas House of Representatives in Johnson County’s 16th District.
The committee -- evenly split between Republicans and Democrats -- backed a decision last month by Johnson County District Court Judge Steve Tatum that Rardin had beaten his Republican opponent, John Dennis Kriegshauser, by two votes.
Eric Carter of Overland Park, Kriegshauser’s attorney, said he will consult with his client later today on whether to withdraw the election challenge. Carter has contended that four challenged ballots accepted by Johnson County election officials were cast illegally by voters who didn’t reside in the House district.
However, lawmakers said they were unable to determine who those voters chose in the House race because the ballots were commingled with 1,300 other provisional ballots and could not be identified. Carter had asked the committee to subtract three of those votes from Rardin’s total because he said they were probably cast for the Democrat.
Democrats on the committee praised the committee’s Republican chairman, Rep. Mike O’Neal of Hutchinson, for conducting the election inquiry in a nonpartisan manner. Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said the committee looked at the facts presented by both sides of the challenge and reached its decision based on those facts and not partisan politics.
O’Neal said two previous election challenges in the early 1990s were handled in a non-partisan manner and that he was determined to make sure this case was handled the same way.
“These election contests are tough,” he added.
A meeting to finalize the committee’s recommendation is scheduled for tomorrow. If Kriegshauser withdraws, it would avoid what some believe could be a bitter, partisan fight on the House floor sometime next week.
A majority vote by the full House, which is overwhelmingly Republican, could give the election to Kriegshauser.
Posted by Jim Sullinger