Mesa opts out of 123rd House race

7/7/2012

Doll to be sole GOP candidate in race.

Doll to be sole GOP candidate in race.

BY SHAJIA AHMAD

sahmad@gctelegram.com

State Rep. Reynaldo Mesa, R-Garden City, will no longer be running to reclaim his House seat, clearing the way for John Doll, his sole opponent in the race.

Mesa, 53, a one-term Republican state lawmaker first elected to represent House District 123 by no contest in 2010, also serves as president of the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce.

The former long-standing city commissioner and three-term mayor made his announcement Friday in a letter to his constituents.

Mesa cited his new role at the chamber, which commenced last December, as one of his reasons for stepping aside.

The chamber president also said while the past two years have been "very exciting for me personally and professionally," his executive role is also "very demanding" as the business league makes "great strides in building membership and restructuring the Chamber into a vital organization."

"I've immensely enjoyed representing the wonderful people of Garden City in the Kansas Legislature," Mesa wrote in Friday's letter.

"I've found serving as your state representative and chamber executive requires a great deal of responsibility and is extremely time consuming. As with all successful endeavors I undertake in life, I wish to give 100 percent to both positions and have found it increasingly difficult to do so," he also wrote.

Doll, 54, a current city commissioner who has also served previously as mayor, filed to run against Mesa on the GOP ticket in late May.

The two served side-by-side on the city commission from 2007 to 2010. Both names will still appear on the Aug. 7 primary ballot, according to representatives of the Kansas State Secretary's office.

Kay Curtis, a media representative from the state office, said the withdrawal deadline date for state-level candidates was June 11, and election ballots must be ready at least 45 days ahead of the August primary.

"It's certainly within his right to do, but it doesn't change the ballot," Curtis said.

With no Democratic challengers, Doll is likely headed to the Kansas House unless he faces write-in challengers in the primary or general election on Nov. 6.

"I have the greatest respect in the world for Rey. I served with him for a long time, and he and I are like-minded on most issues," Doll said Friday, following Mesa's resignation from the race.

Doll also said he hoped to win, and as far the election goes, he still plans to aggressively campaign, and wants to reach out the 22,900 or so residents that live within the newly-drawn district boundaries that were adopted this year.

"I can serve the people of the 123rd the way they deserve to be served," he also said, adding that his campaign will "go as far as we can go."

Rich Taylor, chamber board chairman, said neither he nor fellow board members played a role in Mesa's decision to drop out of the race.

Taylor, who called the decision a "tough" one, said the board had been comfortable with Mesa serving in both roles.

"We hired him while he was in the Legislature, and we felt like that was a good fit," Taylor, a business owner at Office Solutions in Garden City, said. "A lot part of what the chamber does is get southwest Kansas and Garden City issues to Topeka. We're excited that Reynaldo will be here every day, and he can still go to Topeka and use his experience that he has there to work on our wants and needs. ... (The chamber) is a better organization than it's been in a long time because of him."

Lynn Ballinger, chair of the Finney County Republican Party, said Friday the political group had not yet endorsed nor had any plans to endorse either candidate in the local GOP race.

Ballinger said she personally supported Mesa and was disappointed by his decision not to continue running.

The Republican chairwoman said she served as a treasurer in Mesa's 2010 campaign, during his bid for the state-elected office. She said she took no active role in Mesa's campaign this year.

"I would say I respect his decision, but I'm saddened by his decision. I think, and everyone thinks, he did a fine job in Topeka. We thought it would be great if he could take that experience he gained and continue to serve (Garden City)," she said. "I'm sure it's for the best, I wish him the best, and I also wish John Doll the best."

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