It is shades of Florida 2000 in Cherokee County following Tuesday night’s election. In unofficial results incumbent state Rep. Doug Gatewood, (D-Columbus) retains his seat by less than 100 votes but challenger Mike Houser says he’s considering a recount.
“Wouldn’t you?,” he asked. “Less than two percent? We’ll see how the provisionals (ballots) go. I may not need to.”
The actual difference was 2.03 percent.
Gatewood had 2,850 votes to Houser’s 2,754 — a difference of 96 votes.
There are approximately 120 provisional ballots which have to be hand counted, if the percentage of votes for each candidate remain consistent with the machine-counted ballots there are not enough votes to overturn the result. Gatewood received 50.86 percent of the vote, Houser 49.14 percent.
Gatewood said he’s not worried about a recount.
“I’m confident that that the machines did a good count,” he said, adding “certainly until the votes are canvassed it’s an unofficial result.”
Houser said the election was a message.
“One thing it does tell Mr. Gatewood is half the people in his district want … (him) … replaced,” Houser said. “He’d better shape up or he will be out next time.
“Win lose or draw this was a win for Cherokee County.”
Gatewood said he was thankful for the win.
“I appreciate (the support of the voters) and will do everything I can to make sure they have good representation in Topeka.”
Gatewood also addressed the statewide races.
“It was very much a clean sweep for the Republicans,” he said. “They took every statewide office and picked up 17 seats in the house.
“That means (Democrats) have 32 seats in the House and nine in the Senate,” he said. “Republicans have a supermajority and both houses and can pretty much do what they want.”
In the local county commission race, incumbent District 1 Commissioner Pat Collins, (R-Galena) easily won reelection, defeating Democratic challenger Paul Andrews 221 to 137.
“I feel very fortunate I won the election and thank the voters of Cherokee County,” Collins said.
In statewide races a Republican tide among voters propelled a professor who helped write Arizona's new immigration law into the Kansas secretary of state's office and swept out a Democratic attorney general and state treasurer.
Kris Kobach's victory over Democratic Secretary of State Chris Biggs led him to declare that he has a mandate to aggressively pursue suspected cases of election fraud because he made that his main campaign theme. But Kobach is best known nationally for advising cities and states wanting to crack down on illegal immigration — an activity he has said he'll continue in his spare time.
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt defeated Attorney General Steve Six in a race that became about the new federal health care law. Six has refused to have Kansas challenge the law in federal court or join other states in litigation, and Schmidt has promised to attack the policies championed by President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats in Washington.
The GOP surge was the only good explanation for Sedgwick County Treasurer Ron Estes' victory over State Treasurer Dennis McKinney. Estes has said he'd make the office more efficient, but even he saw little to criticize about the incumbent.
All three incumbents had been appointed by Democratic governors to fill midterm vacancies, a sore point for many Republicans. The GOP's victories allowed Republicans to sweep all statewide and congressional races on the ballot for the first time since 1964.
Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican, faced no opponent in her bid for a third term.
Kobach mentioned his immigration work but made combating potential voter fraud his biggest issue. The secretary of state's office has received about three dozen reports of potential irregularities over the past 12 years, which Kobach said is a sign of bigger problems.
"My campaign had a very clear message all along," Kobach told The Associated Press. "There is a clear mandate to get the job done."
Biggs argued that so few cases meant that Kobach was exaggerating the potential problem. He also said steps Kobach advocated — such as requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls — would suppress turnout.
But after his loss, Biggs said, "I look forward to working with him in the coming months towards a smooth transition that protects the fairness and integrity of Kansas elections."
Meanwhile, the new federal health care law championed by Obama became a major issue in Six's race against Schmidt, despite Six's attempts to steer the campaign to his crime-fighting and consumer protection work.
"It was symptomatic of a deeper concern about the ever-growing reach of the federal government," Schmidt said in an interview.
Six has said challenging the health care law would be a waste of resources. Schmidt hit on the issue, but an Iowa group, American Future Fund, did far more with it by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads attacking Six. A political action committee largely funded by the Democratic Attorneys General Association launched it own ad blitz.
"The voters made a choice, so clearly they thought his priorities were the way to go," Six said. As for health care, he said, "I've got to believe that's what voters were making a decision on."
In the treasurer's race, McKinney had outspent Estes 6-to-1 going into the campaign's final two weeks. But last week, Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson expressed some nervousness that a Republican surge would oust McKinney.
Both constitutional amendments, one to define the right to keep and bear arms as an individual rather than a collective right, and one to remove a provision which would have allowed the legislature to take the right to vote away from people diagnosed as mentally ill passed overwhelmingly.
Editor’s note: John Hanna of the Associated Press contributed to this story.