Douglas County precinct committeepeople to select county commissioner to replace Portillo

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The 46 Democratic precinct committeepeople in Douglas County’s 3rd County Commission District will vote Sunday on a replacement for departing Commissioner Shannon Portillo.

Patricia Willer, chair of the Douglas County Democratic Party, said in an email that three candidates — Cole Browne, Ma’Ko’Quah Jones and Karen Willey — have thrown their hats in the ring.


Any registered Democratic voter who lives in the district, though, is eligible to seek the open commission seat. The rules, Willer said, allow for someone who is eligible to nominate themselves at the election meeting, and upon selection, the individual elected will be officially appointed by Governor Laura Kelly. 

Willer said the precinct committeepeople will be credentialed at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 in the lobby of Theater Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive before the election begins at 2 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend, she said.

Portillo was elected in the November 2020 election and took office in January 2021. Her term expires in January 2025. Upon her announcement in June that she accepted a job at Arizona State University, Portillo expressed confidence in the committeepeople tasked with selecting her replacement.

“I am confident that they will find a strong leader who will continue to center the most vulnerable voices in our community,” she said.

Portillo is also currently associate dean of academic affairs for the University of Kansas Edwards Campus and its School of Professional Studies. Her new position at Arizona State, director of the School of Public Affairs, begins Oct. 1. She said in June that she planned to be in Lawrence through the early fall.

“While the role of County Commissioner has been challenging, it has also been one of the most galvanizing and rewarding experiences of my life,” Portillo said in her June statement. “Douglas County has been my home for the majority of my life. And while my family is relocating, Douglas County will continue to be just that: home. Until we move, I will continue to advocate for a stronger, healthier, and safer Douglas County where our policies match our rhetoric.”

Voters will next have an opportunity to weigh in during the 2024 election.

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Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.


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