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Despite controversy, O’Donnell is unofficial winner in county commission race, Lopez not conceding

Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell won Tuesday's election over challenger Sarah...
Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell won Tuesday's election over challenger Sarah Lopez.(KWCH)
Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 6:34 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update midnight Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020: Within about 500 votes of incumbent Republican Michael O’Donnell in the race to represent Sedgwick County’s Second District on the county commission, Democrat Sarah Lopez is not yet ready to concede.

“If we were, I think I said 2,000 short, then I would say, ‘we did our best and it’s time to go home,’ but 500, when there were so many that were mailed-in and we still have a few days to get those in, I’m not ready to concede until the last vote is counted,” Lopez said.

Lopez said she is happy with the support she received from Republicans and Independents, but voiced disappointment that O’Donnell managed to maintain the voter support he did after his involvement in conspiring to make false, personal accusations against Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple and pinning the blame for a false attack ad on local leadership in the Republican party.

“It’s disheartening to think that even after everything that’s going on and even after we’ve seen all this corruption just visually play out, it’s hard to know that people would still choose because of a letter behind their name," she said.

. Update 10 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020: Unofficial final results from Sedgwick County show Michael O’Donnell with a narrow, 2 percent victory over challenger Sarah Lopez in the race for Sedgwick County Commission District 2. O’Donnell and Lopez were separated by a little more than 500 votes.

Leading up to Tuesday, many expected that despite the controversy involving O’Donnell and the false attack ad against Brandon Whipple, O’Donnell would still be able to pull out a win. If the final count holds up and O’Donnell is the official winner of the District 2 seat, the Sedgwick County Republican Party will decide who takes his seat. This month, the local GOP will elect a new chairman who will call a convention to make that decision.

Elsewhere with the Sedgwick County Commission, on Tuesday night in the District 3 race, Republican incumbent David Dennis defeated challenger, Democrat Mike Iuen. The unofficial tally showed Dennis winning by about 32 percent.

The race for the Sedgwick County Commission’s second district has a lot more attention drawn to it with the incumbent on record saying he will step down if he wins.

Last week, the Sedgwick County Commission adopted a resolution to censure Commissioner Michael O’Donnell and call for his resignation. It also requested that he decline to serve if re-elected. This comes after O’Donnell was among state/local leaders caught conspiring on a secret recording to pin the blame for a false attack ad against Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple on other members of local Republican Party leadership.

O’Donnell decided to stay in the race to serve District 2 on the county commission but agreed to resign if he’s elected over his Democratic challenger, Sarah Lopez. If O’Donnell wins and then resigns, the Sedgwick County Republican Party can select someone to replace him on the commission instead of forfeiting the seat to Lopez.

Ahead of polls closing Tuesday, Lopez addressed the unique situation in the District 2 race, voicing doubt that O’Donnell will step down as promised if he wins.

“I don’t know why we would start believing what (O’Donnell) says now,” Lopez said. “I think if he happens to win this, then he’s going to say the voters spoke and that’s who they wanted. I’m trying really hard, like I said, not to get too distracted by this. I have no idea what would happen if he stepped down or if he won and didn’t step down. We’re really focused on making sure we run the campaign like we wanted.”

Eyewitness News also spoke with O’Donnell earlier Tuesday. He said he had no further comment. Another Sedgwick County Commission race pits Republican incumbent David Dennis against Democrat Mike Iuen, a retired local TV journalist who spent decades at KAKE TV in Wichita.

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