A political newcomer apparently succeeded Tuesday in ousting the county's top criminal prosecutor.
With all precincts reporting and only advance votes left to be counted, Democrat Charles Branson had a three-point lead over incumbent Republican Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney. Kenney acknowledged the deficit would be hard to overcome.
"It's been a hard-fought race," Branson said about 1 a.m. before the advance votes had been tallied. "I respect Chris ... If I win, I'm going to implement some things I think will be beneficial to Douglas County. It puts us in a new direction."
Kenney said it had been a privilege to serve in the office the past 15 years, both as district attorney and an assistant prosecutor.
"I feel very good about the job I've done for the county," she said. "No matter what, it will be my intention to ensure that the workings of the office are disrupted as little as possible."
Kenney said she didn't regret her campaign decision to focus on her own record instead of attacking Branson.
"I was disappointed to see the numbers, but I knew that this was going to be a very hard-fought race, and I assumed all along that it would be close," she said.
Kenney, who spent Tuesday morning picking a jury for a first-degree murder trial, hadn't been challenged since taking office in 1996. She cast herself as, by far, the more experienced of the two and pointed out that Branson had never prosecuted a jury trial.
Branson is a private-practice attorney who's handled traffic offenses and misdemeanors as part-time Eudora city prosecutor. He acknowledged he had work to do becoming familiar with pending cases, including three first-degree murder cases.
"I've had to get up to speed on major cases before in a short amount of time," he said.
Branson ran on a platform to start a consumer-protection office, try cases personally, and improve services for victims and witnesses. He also attacked Kenney's courtroom performance and office budget.
One of the major issues of the campaign was Branson's repeated claim that Kenney had failed to win a guilty verdict in more than half of the felony trials so far this year.
A closer look found Kenney's actual conviction rate this year to be either 54 percent or 75 percent, depending on how the numbers are counted.