Last week Betty Arnold, a member of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, declared her intent to be a candidate for the Sedgwick County Commission. She’ll be running for the spot currently held by Republican Dave Unruh, who has already filed for re-election.
Arnold, a Democrat, faces an uphill battle, based on registration figures. In this district, my analysis of a recent voter file shows voter registration runs 29% Democratic, 45% Republican, and 26% unaffiliated. (The remainder are Libertarian and Reform party registrants.)
Considering recent voters — I defined this as those who voted in an election in 2008 — the numbers are worse for Arnold. In this case, 30% are Democratic, 21% are unaffiliated, and the Republican number jumps to 49%.
It’s hard to figure out what Arnold could do to persuade Republican voters to support her. Her vote for a property tax increase, her recommendation that voters approve an expensive and unneeded bond issue, and her anti-school choice stance are not positions that will appeal to conservatives and those who value freedom and liberty, be they Republican, unaffiliated, or of any other party.
If the only Republican candidate (incumbent Dave Unruh) consistently took conservative positions, Arnold might have a case to make to moderate Republicans. But Unruh’s vote for a tax increase, his support for the downtown arena tax, and his support of TIF districts and other taxpayer giveaways such as the AirTran subsidy place him firmly in the moderate Republican camp — making it difficult for Arnold to peel off potentially left-leaning Republicans or unaffiliated voters.
Top off this with the likelihood that next year could be a big year for Republicans locally and nationwide, and Arnold starts off way behind.
It’s still possible that Unruh may face a challenge in the Republican primary. Efforts have been made to recruit a candidate, and there is one well-known conservative Republican thought to be looking at the race. Last year’s take-down of moderate Republican commissioner Tom Winters in the August primary by Karl Peterjohn will be very difficult to replicate, as Unruh has shown signs that he has been preparing for the campaign.