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Three in mix for 40th Senate seat

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

It's now a three-way race for the reconstituted 40th Senate District.

After taking the weekend to think about it, Sen. Allen Schmidt, D-Hays, filed for election to the new district he now lives in, reconfigured late last week by a panel of three federal judges.

He joins sitting Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, who is being challenged by fellow Republican John Miller, Norton.

Sue Boldra, a Republican from Hays, had off-and-on been listed as a fourth candidate, but she is challenging incumbent Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, in the 111th House District.

It was a case of musical districts Monday as a noon deadline to file for state office approached.

The federal judges, whose decision was handed down Thursday, ultimately faced the task of redrawing legislative districts based on new population numbers.

Under the plan, Schmidt's 36th Senate District remained, but it was shifted east and no longer included Ellis County.

Instead, Ellis County was incorporated into the 40th Senate District, which Ostmeyer represents.

"I don't feel like I was relieved of my service commitment to rural Kansas," Schmidt said Monday after filing all the necessary paperwork with the Kansas Secretary of State's office in Topeka.

"I know there is a lot of work to be done. We're in a battle as long as we are losing population."

Schmidt struggled with the idea of going up against Ostmeyer, who was an ardent supporter of keeping Schmidt's district. They also worked together on several projects.

Schmidt said he talked to Ostmeyer about the decision.

"Ralph said pretty much, 'Allen, do what you think is right,' " Schmidt said.

He admits the contest is going to be made difficult simply because he's lost nine of the 10 counties he served.

"It's going to be quite a challenge," he said. "But I am ready for people to make their decision."

Schmidt dismissed the idea of being at a distinct disadvantage simply because he's a Democrat in a district that's largely Republican.

There are about 46,000 registered voters in the 40th District -- not counting the western half of Phillips County that's now part of the district.

Of those, more than 25,000 are Republicans. The second largest party would fall to those considered unaffiliated, with slightly more than 10,000. Democrats are a close third, with nearly 9,900 registered voters.

Despite the Democratic tag, Schmidt said "I'm pretty much an independent."

He's said he's first a Kansan, and a rural one at that.

"I'm all about doing what I can for rural Kansas," he said.