Citizens push for recall of Commissioner Ranzau

WICHITA, Kansas – The Sedgwick County Commission chairman could soon be fighting to keep his seat. A group of voters is moving forward with a petition to recall Commissioner Richard Ranzau because of his opinions on the WIC program and immigrants.

The petition hasn’t been filed, but the three voters say they will be filing a petition to recall Ranzau because they believe he hasn’t been fulfilling his obligation to protect the health of Sedgwick County citizens.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Ranzau spoke out against letting illegal immigrants reap the benefits of WIC, a federal program to help women, infants, and children with nutrition.

The district attorney’s office will need to review the validity of the request. If approved, the group will begin gathering more than 9,000 signatures of District 4 residents. They have 90 days to do that in hopes of forcing a special recall election.

Recall supporters say it comes down to funding county health programs, and they say recent comments by the commissioner about funding for the WIC program put them over the edge.

This group of everyday citizens are pushing for the recall.

Neva Thiessen is one of three residents filing the petition.

“If it takes me going to people’s houses to get signatures, I’ll do that because this is very important because it affects the health and welfare of many people in our community,” Thiessen said.

Recall supporters say they’ve done the research and have grounds to ask for the recall.

This group is upset by budget cuts approved by the commissioners this year including recently refusing some of the federal dollars for the WIC program, reducing administrative costs.

Commissioner Ranzau, who voted for the changes, says it does not reduce WIC benefits.

That’s an argument the petitioners don’t buy.

“Again and again there isn’t good reason to do it other than someone’s ideology,” said petitioner Mary Ware

That stems from a comment Ranzau made during the commission meeting where they discussed the WIC budget. Ranzau was concerned the children of undocumented immigrants were receiving the benefits.

He’s since had several conversations about his stance including a recent email exchange with the head of an immigration advocacy group about the WIC program.

“My question to them is are they willing to give their own money to illegal immigrants are they willing to write their own check or give their own food or are they just interested in spending other people’s money,” Ranzau said.

When we spoke to the commissioner after the announcement of the recall petition, he didn’t seem too concerned.

“More power to ’em, I mean, this is a free country,” Ranzau said.

The petition hasn’t been filed, but the three voters say they will be filing a petition to recall Ranzau because they believe he hasn’t been fulfilling his obligation to protect the health of Sedgwick County citizens.

Under Kansas law, signatures of 40 percent of the votes cast in the 2014 election are needed on a petition to force a vote.

24,088 votes were cast in the District 4 commissioner race, meaning the petition would need at least 9,645 signatures.

Once a petition is developed, it needs to be approved by the Sedgwick County District Attorney before it can be circulated to the public.

Editors note: In a previous report we mistakenly identified the Kansas Health Foundation and the League of Women Voters as organizations that spoke in support of the recall. They did not speak in support of the recall. We apologize for our error.

RELATED LINK | Richard Ranzau’s Sedgwick County bio page

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