Boldra bounces Phelps from House

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

With victory assured, Sue Boldra popped champagne corks at her watch party.

Boldra, the Republican challenger in the 111th district in the state House of Representatives, defeated incumbent Eber Phelps, D-Hays, in Tuesday's general election.

"I'm very excited," Boldra said. "I really want to do this well."

With 23 of 25 precincts reporting, Boldra had a 54 percent to 46 percent lead in the voting. She had 5,763 votes, compared to 4,929 votes for Phelps.

Boldra said the voting demographics in Ellis County helped her. In education for 40 years, she said, support among students also was a factor. Boldra also did some old-fashioned campaigning.

"I certainly worked almost the entire district, knocking on doors myself," she said. "I really worked hard, and I think it paid off."

Phelps, who first was elected in 1996 and had just one challenger previously in 2000, said a negative advertising blitz that distorted his record helped lead to his defeat.

"It's something most people in Hays had never seen before. We just don't campaign that way in Hays," Phelps said of the several campaign ads voters found in their mailboxes. "The fact of the matter is, what the people of Hays and Ellis County have lost is a seat in the Legislature.

"I lost to the Koch brothers, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity.

"That's who now has a seat in the Legislature."

Boldra said the campaign was full of ups and downs for her, until just the last few days.

"I would feel really good, then something would happen," she said. "I would question myself."

Bolda then talked things over with her husband just before the election.

"I really came to the decision it is what it is, I've done what I can," Boldra said. "I tried to run a good, clean, hard race. If it's in the cards, it's God's will. It will happen. If he has another plan for me, I guess I will do something else."

Boldra will be doing something else -- becoming a freshman Legislator in the next session.

"I'm concerned about the economy; I'm very concerned about the (outcome) of our presidential election," Boldra said. "I'm really not sure what that's going to mean for health care decisions we have to make.

"I think Kansas is going to have a number of challenges in the next few years."

Phelps reflected on his 16 years of service in the Legislature.

"I'm most proud of the fact I believe I carried a message of what makes this part of the state great," Phelps said. "I supported the public education system, which is very important to Hays, and the entire state. That's always been my focus in the Legislature.

"I'm also proud of supporting agriculture, which to me is still the driving engine of our state."

Phelps also reflected on his campaign and his supporters.

"I'll be fine," he said. "There's worse things in life than losing an election.

"I think (supporters) are proud of the fact I didn't give in and get into a nasty campaign. I'm going to make sure the people who helped me understand we did what we needed to do. Apparently, we didn't do enough. Obviously, that responsibility falls on me."

Boldra also talked about her supporters.

"I would just like to thank all the people who believed in me, who have supported me, and I really appreciate it, and I plan to represent them well," she said.

Couture-Lovelady wins

The open seat in the 110th district remained in Republican hands.

Travis Couture-Lovelady, Palco, won decisively over Democrat Philip Martin, Ellis. With 67 of 69 precincts reporting, Couture-Lovelady had 75 percent of the vote. He had 7,528 votes to Martin's 2,472. Martin lost in Ellis County; he had 969 votes compared to 1,008 for Couture-Lovelady.

"I needed to do real well in Ellis County," Martin said, who also lost decisively in the other four counties in the district.

"I needed something in the other counties in the thousands instead of the hundreds," he said. "I just don't know if I had enough to overcome the fact I'm a Democrat in a Republican area."

This is the first time Couture-Lovelady, 29, has run for office.

"I just had an overwhelming amount of support," he said. "People in the 110th District really got out and voted.

"Looking at the numbers, I was looking at a good turnout from Republicans," he added. "We had a lot of support; really great to see the numbers come in that way."

Couture-Lovelady takes the seat vacated by Dan Collins, R-Plainville, who retired from the Legislature after only one term.

"I think there's a lot of challenges we're going to face coming up," Couture-Lovelady said. "Not quite sure how the national economy is going to go, but think there are a lot of things we can do to get Kansas in a better, more pro-growth position."