Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Skelton was censured by fellow Republicans on Thursday, a move which he said blindsided him.
Skelton was censured for public comments he made in an interview with The Wichita Eagle, supporting Democrat Tim Norton (District 2 commissioner) over challenger Ben Sauceda, Republican.
“I would worry about the community as a whole if he (Sauceda) were to be elected,” Skelton was quoted as saying. “I want people on the board who are going to be working for their constituents, not working against the government. I don’t want to work with someone who every time you turn around, they’re voting against something.”
Sauceda, too, said he was caught off-guard by Skelton’s comments in the Eagle because he has not discussed any issues with Skelton.
“To me, he spoke and gave an interview and attacked me in the paper without talking to me about the issues,” Sauceda said.
The one-sided comments also angered party members who brought the censure forward. The censure was made from the floor of a Sedgwick County Republican Party meeting on Thursday.
Treatha Brown-Foster, chair of the Kansas Black Republican Council and a precinct committee person, made the resolution, which was approved without any “no” votes. Sauceda said he did not vote on the censure.
“It’s not a party loyalty test,” he said. “I think the issue most people were frustrated with was to make the attack without knowing my opinions.”
Skelton said he was not notified of the potential censure and was not given an opportunity to defend himself. There have been several instances in recent history in which party lines were crossed to support specific candidates, he said. He cited support given to former commissioners Gwen Welshimer, a Democrat, by Republican commissioners, saying there were many others over the years.
“I just feel discriminated against here,” he said.
In his experience, he said, both Wichita City Council and commission issues have been non-partisan.
“By and large, my experience with the general population is we need to work as a team rather than by philosophical differences,” he said.
Skelton said the action will not change his support of Norton in the race and as the race picks up momentum, he will be campaigning for Norton “extra hard.”
“It actually solidified me more in Tim’s camp,” Skelton said.
Sauceda said he and Norton had agreed to run a clean race. The first punches were thrown from outside their race, he said, but he doesn’t anticipate an impact from the censure in the race as it moves forward.
“To me, I’m running against Tim Norton, not Jim Skelton,” he said.
Neither Norton nor Sauceda has a primary opponent. They will face off in the Nov. 6 election.
"I don't understand why a Republican would be supporting a Democrat like this. If Jim Skelton really agrees so much with a liberal Democrat like Tim Norton, don't you think Skelton should just change his party and become a Democrat? Weird."