Ellis County Republican Party Chairman Dustin Roths is preparing over the next three weeks to sort out the state mandated process for replacing Ellis County Commissioner Barb Wasinger.
According to state statutes, Roths is the designated person to usher the local party through each step: calling a meeting of the local precinct leadership in Wasinger’s District 2, presenting candidates to those committee men and women, calling for them to vote, then submitting the successful candidate’s name to the governor of Kansas for confirmation.
The hope is to have Wasinger’s replacement figured out in the next 15 to 20 days, Roths said.
“By Christmas we want to know who’s going to take the position,” he said. “I’m going to talk to the Secretary of State in the next few days and find out what we have to do. I just want to make sure it is done right.”
Swearing in of the new District 2 County Commissioner likely could occur the evening of Jan. 14, the first regularly scheduled commission meeting for 2019, said Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus.
But that’s not written in stone, Maskus said.
“It’s up to that person, if they want family to be there, I would move it up earlier in the day, and do that,” she said. “We work with the winning candidate, if they have thoughts of doing it when family can attend.”
In Hays, District 2 comprises Hays City Ward 1 precincts 1 and 2, which votes at the Extension Office, 601 Main St., Hays City Ward 2 Precinct 1, which votes at the Hays VFW Post 9076, 2106 Vin., Hays City Ward 3 Precinct 2, which votes at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 2900 Canal Blvd., and Hays City Ward 3 Precinct 4, which votes at the Smoky Hill Country Club, 3303 Hall St.
In the county, District 2 comprises North Big Creek Township, West Big Creek Township, North Lookout Township, South Lookout Township and Wheatland Township, Maskus said.
Wasinger can choose how soon or late to vacate her District 2 seat, said Roths.
In a prolonged election culminating in a recount Nov. 20, Wasinger was officially declared the winner of the Kansas House of Representatives 111th District.
She narrowly defeated incumbent Rep. Eber Phelps by 35 votes. Her election was confirmed when the votes were canvassed and certified in a 2-to-1 vote of the Ellis County Board of Canvassers.
Finding precinct leadership to vote on Wasinger’s replacement may be a challenge, since most of the county’s precinct positions are vacant.
“It’s interesting, this is a part of government people are not really familiar with,” said Roths. “Precinct leadership is a party position. People see them on the ballot and don’t even know what they really are.”
There are 58 precinct positions in the county, and only 11 are filled, he said. Of those, only eight were actually elected, the rest were appointed, at least two at the request of the appointees.
Roths previously appointed his brother, Lucas Roths, to Hays City Ward 1 Precinct 1, and Jerome Vajnar to Hays City Ward 3 Precinct 1.
Elected precinct officials in District 2 are Hays Ward 3 Precinct 4’s husband and wife John Pyle and Becky Pyle, according to documents from the Ellis County Clerk’s Office.
There is no precinct leadership in any of the other District 2 precincts. They are always voted on in a primary election, when party positions are selected, Maskus said.
As for candidates, Roths is aware of two unofficial candidates right now, including himself.
“It’s something I’ve thought about since the beginning of Barb getting into the race,” said Roths, who is owner of Diamond R Jewelry, 807 Main St., Hays. Roths ran for Hays City Commission in 2017, but lost by a scant 17 votes to Chris Dinkel, who later resigned to attend law school. Roths was not appointed to Dinkel’s vacant seat.
“I’m definitely considering it and would love to finally do something in the public sphere,” he said. “I’ve thought about it since working on the campaign.”
One other person has approached Roths about seeking the seat, he said, but is still mulling the decision.