Voters in seven Johnson County cities have what’s come to be a rarity at election time: a choice for mayor.
Not since 2009 has there been anywhere near that many competitive mayoral races in a county where mayors and city council members run without party affiliation and tend to serve until they retire or move away.
That was one of the top takeaways for this year’s municipal elections as the Kansas filing deadline came and went Thursday.
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▪ A former state senator who also served as Kansas secretary of labor is making a bid to return to elective office on the Olathe City Council.
▪ In Roeland Park, a woman is running for both mayor and City Council.
▪ In Wyandotte County, a longtime state senator will be among those running for mayor/CEO of the Unified Government.
In Johnson County, six incumbent mayors have opponents, in De Soto, Edgerton, Gardner, Merriam, Overland Park and Roeland Park.
Roeland Park, with four candidates, is the only race that will appear on the Aug. 1 primary ballot. All the others are two-candidate races that will skip the primary and be decided in the general election on Nov. 7.
In Fairway, voters will pick between two longtime City Council members vying to replace the incumbent mayor, who is stepping aside.
Voters also will decide nearly three dozen contested City Council races in the fall, but primary elections to narrow the fields are required in just seven races, in Gardner, Olathe, Overland Park, Roeland Park and Shawnee.
Johnson County mayors
For the first time since handily winning election in 2005, Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach faces a challenger in perennial candidate and former state Rep. Charlotte O’Hara.
Appointed by the Republican county committee to fill a vacancy for two sessions in the Kansas House, O’Hara has not won voter approval in seven previous attempts running for office. She lost both tries at becoming county commission chair and was bested by fellow Republicans in the primary while seeking two state Senate seats.
She also failed to win seats on the Olathe school board and the Johnson County Community College board, and dropped out of a race for the congressional seat now held by Kevin Yoder.
Gerlach served 10 years on the City Council before becoming mayor and has never lost an election.
In other races where mayoral incumbents face challenges:
De Soto Mayor Timothy Maniez is running against City Council President Rick Walker. Edgerton Mayor Donald Roberts is opposed by Michael Sleister.
Challenger Eric Jackson is out to defeat Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom.
In Gardner, City Council President Steve Shute will try to unseat Mayor Chris Morrow.
In Roeland Park, Mike Kelly and three former council members — Roger Cooper, Scott Gregory and Linda Mau — are vying to become mayor. Incumbent Joel Marquardt is not running again.
Fairway council members Melanie Hepperly and Jim Poplinger are running to replace outgoing Mayor Jerry Wiley.
In another Johnson County seven cities, no one put in a bid to replace a sitting mayor.
▪ Gardner: Seven candidates are competing for an at-large seat on the City Council: Shirley Baker Harley, Mark Baldwin, Michael Blanchard, Terrence J. Flowers, Randy Gregorcyk, Jonathan T. Pelkey and Scott Smith.
▪ Olathe: A four-person field is competing for the at-large council seat now held by Ron Ryckman, who did not file for re-election. His other political job is speaker of the Kansas House.
Leading the field to replace Ryckman is another statehouse veteran, Karin Brownlee. She was a state senator from 1997 to 2011, when she was appointed secretary of labor by Gov. Sam Brownback. She left that job in 2012 after an internal disagreement with his administration.
Other candidates for the seat at Troy Calkins, Jason Darby and Deann Mitchell.
Vying to represent Olathe’s Ward 3 are incumbent Wes McCoy, Alan K. Marston Jr., Adam Thomas and Anthony G. Walsh.
▪ Overland Park: Three people have filed to run against incumbent Dave Janson in Ward 1, which includes the northern part of the city. The challengers are Logan Heley, Dean Mercer and Stephen Wyatt.
▪ Roeland Park: William Scott Foy, Linda Mau and Claudia McCormack are running for the open seat representing Ward 3. Mau also filed as a candidate for mayor. Election officials say that is permissible.
▪ Shawnee: Primary races will happen in the western part of the city in Ward 3 and the southern part in Ward 4.
Incumbent Jeff Vaught has two challengers for his Ward 3 spot: Justin Adrian and Dave Myres.
In Ward 4, incumbent Brandon Kenig will face Lindsey Constance, Tony Noble and Ajay Sood.
Wyandotte County races
A five-way Unified Government mayoral race tops the list of elections.
Municipal government, sheriff, community college, school board and Board of Public Utility seats are open this year. An Aug. 1 primary will narrow the field for most races with more than two candidates. Voters will select winners on Nov. 7.
Mayor/CEO Mark Holland drew four challengers: David Alvey, state Sen. David Haley, Keith Jordon and Janice Grant Witt.
Unified Government commissioner races:
▪ District 2 at-large: Tom Burroughs will face J.D. Rios in November for the right to succeed Hal Walker, who did not seek re-election.
▪ District 1: Incumbent Commissioner Gayle Townsend is being challenged by Victor Harris.
▪ District 5: Incumbent Commissioner Mike Kane has two challengers, John Fotovich and Sarah Kremer.
▪ District 7: Incumbent Jim Walters has two challengers, George Cooper and Jim Gibson.
▪ District 8: Incumbent Jane Philbrook has two challengers, Brad Isnard and Kendon McClaine.
Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash filed for re-election and will square off against Charles Bunnell, Marvin Main, Celisha Towers and Victor Webb in the primary.
Roxie Hammill and Andy Nelson contributed to this report.