2019 Wichita mayoral election

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November 5, 2019 (general)
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Nominee Brandon Whipple Jeff Longwell
Party Nonpartisan Nonpartisan
Popular vote 22,256 17,516
Percentage 46.1% 36.3%

Mayor before election

Jeff Longwell
Republican

Elected Mayor

Brandon Whipple
Democratic

The 2019 Wichita mayoral election took place on November 5, 2019, to elect the mayor of Wichita, Kansas. The election is officially nonpartisan. Incumbent Jeff Longwell ran for reelection and faced Brandon Whipple in the runoff election. Whipple defeated Longwell, who conceded on election night.[1]

Primary campaign and election

In a contest with nine candidates,[2] the three principal candidates who emerged were incumbent mayor Jeff Longwell, state representative Brandon Whipple, and businessman Lyndy Wells. While Longwell emphasized his track record, and plans for area development (particularly development of a new baseball stadium and team), Whipple and Wells focused on other issues, particularly the transparency in government, and promotion of local education development.[3][4][5][6][7]

Whipple further prioritized "an underfunded police force. [because of] crime rising in our city."[5] and proposed the involvement of mental health professionals in sensitive police conflict situations (a proposal similar to a program already in development at the Wichita Police Department).[8][7][9] He also proposed re-instituting the Wichita Commission on Civil Rights, and a new "comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance expanding protections to include Military, Veterans, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation."[9][10]

In the 2019 city primary election, preliminary results put Whipple (with 5,729 votes; 25.9% of the total) second only to Mayor Longwell (who had 7,136 votes; 32.3%).[11][4] [10]

Candidate Lyndy Wells, however, had nearly the same number of primary votes as Whipple (only 160 votes fewer in initial returns: 5,569 votes; 25.2%), and initially delayed acceptance of the defeat in hopes that a review of 1,000 yet-uncounted ballots (including 500 provisional ballots) would turn the election to his favor. Accordingly, Whipple delayed a formal declaration of victory until the final canvass the following week.[6][12][13] However, the final count nearly doubled Whipple's lead (6,067 votes over 5,770 for Wells; Longwell led with 7,404).[13]

Results

Wichita Mayoral primary election, 2019[14]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Jeff Longwell (incumbent) 7,409 32.1
Nonpartisan Brandon Whipple 6,067 26.3
Nonpartisan Lyndy Wells 5,770 25.0
Nonpartisan Amy Lyon 1,470 6.4
Nonpartisan Mark Gietzen 1,349 5.8
Nonpartisan Brock Booker 457 2.0
Nonpartisan Ian Demory 239 1.0
Nonpartisan Joshua Atkinson 166 0.7
Nonpartisan Marty Mork 144 0.6
Total votes 23,071 100.0

Run-off campaign and general election

As the two top vote-getters, Whipple and Longwell were on the November 5 ballot as the two finalists for voters to choose between in the runoff in the city's 2019 general mayoral election.[11][4] During the run-off campaign, Whipple gained endorsements from the unions representing the city's police and firefighters.[15]

In late September, a heated controversy arose over Mayor Longwell's actions to steer the city's largest-ever contract – a $500-million contract to replace the city's water-treatment facility – away from the experienced out-of-state contractor recommended by an official study, and initially approved by the City Council – towards, instead, a less-experienced Wichita contractor who relied partly on project guidance from a firm implicated in the Flint water crisis. The local contractor was headed by one of the mayor's golfing partners, who had a lengthy personal relationship with the mayor, and who had given the mayor an unreported $1,000 gift.[16][17][18][19]

Longwell argued that his efforts were not simply favoritism, but an attempt to bolster "keep money in the community", but the revelation aggravated questions of transparency in government that Whipple and Wells campaigned on.[17][20] An investigation by the District Attorney declined to charge Longwell, but advised him to report gifts from the contractor.[19]

In response to the controversy, Wichita restaurateur Jon Rolph, aided by former mayors (Republican Bob Knight and Democrat Carl Brewer), launched a $10,000 campaign to persuade third-place primary loser Lyndy Wells to resume his campaign as a write-in candidate, noting that Whipple lacked experience in city affairs. Whipple countered that he had "governing experience", and Wells did not. Whipple expressed anger at the move, calling it an attack upon his candidacy to actually get Longwell elected. In late October, Wells agreed to resume his campaign (as a write-in candidate).[21][22][23]

In October 2019, Whipple found himself the victim of an elaborate, covert, multi-state defamatory campaign in which Republican state Representative Michael Capps was implicated.[24] After the publication of the identities of those involved in the attacks, Sedgwick County Republican party chair Dalton Glasscock called for Capps to resign. Two days before the election, Capps claimed that Glasscock had actually approved the production of the ad, an allegation which Glasscock denied.[25] Newly created anonymous entities also attacked both Whipple and Wells weighed via several mailers. Although the sending organizations used different names, they were all linked through a postal permit held by a Kansas City bulk-mail service. The funding of the salacious video as well as the anonymous mailers will not be required to be reported, according to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. It has ruled outside organizations must report their identities and spending only if they use specific key terms such as "vote for," "elect," "vote against" or "defeat". The Democratic party was also criticized for publicly sending a mailer claiming that Longwell was being investigated by the District Attorney for "corruption". In fact, he had just been advised to report contributions and gifts received from the contractor to which a half-billion-dollar contract had been awarded.[1] In October 2020, Whipple, represented by former U.S. Attorney Randy Rathburn, filed suit against Capps, Wichita City Councilman James Clendenin, and Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell, for defamation involving the false charges made against him in the 2019 mayoral election race. Allegations cited were that the co-conspirators tried to blame the conspiracy on Glasscock or Matthew Colburn, and that, with false accusations, they further intended to generate marital discord within Whipple's own family.[26] The suit had originally been filed against the maker of the video, Colburn.[27] It was dropped after Colburn provided audio, text messages, and other evidence, that had identified O'Donnell as the alleged leader of the conspiracy to defame Whipple, and who was accused for writing the script for the video frame-up, [27] Whipple said that he felt sorry for the then-21-year-old Colburn who had been scapegoated by the perpetrators.[27]

Results

On election day, November 5, 2019, Longwell conceded the election to Whipple, who won 46.43% of the ballots versus 36% for Longwell. The results were certified on November 15, 2019.[1] Write-in candidate Lyndy Wells finished third with 16.88% of the total cast.[28]

2019 Wichita mayoral runoff election results
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Brandon Whipple 23,174 46.43%
Nonpartisan John Longwell (incumbent) 17,969 36.00%
Nonpartisan Write-ins 8,767 17.57%
Total votes 49,910 100%

References

  1. ^ a b c Update 9:52 p.m.: In victory speech, Whipple vows to return government to the people, Wichita Eagle, Dion Lefler and Chance Swain, November 5, 2019. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  2. ^ Seminoff, Kirk, assoc. ed., "With filing deadline gone, see who's running for mayor and other seats," June 3, 2019, Wichita Business Journal
  3. ^ Caudill, Daniel, "Kansas legislator Brandon Whipple hopes to prioritize education, public input as mayor", July 17, 2019, The Sunflower (student newspaper of Wichita State University), retrieved September 18, 2019
  4. ^ a b c Caudill, Daniel, "State Rep. Brandon Whipple set to challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in November", August 12, 2019, The Sunflower (student newspaper of Wichita State University), retrieved September 18, 2019
  5. ^ a b Lefler, Dion, et. al., "Longwell wins, Whipple ekes out second spot over Wells in Wichita mayor primary", August 6, 2019, Wichita Eagle, retrieved September 18, 2019
  6. ^ a b Lefler, Dion, "Late ballot counting dims Wells' hope of catching Whipple in Wichita mayor race", August 10, 2019, Wichita Eagle on MSN.com, retrieved September 18, 2019
  7. ^ a b Booker, Matt, "Democrats have a chance to flip mayor's office in Kansas' largest city after surprise finish", August 8, 2019, Daily Kos, retrieved September 18, 2019
  8. ^ "Candidate Brandon Whipple for Wichita Mayor" (interview), August 3, 2019 The Community Voice, retrieved September 18, 2019
  9. ^ a b Caudill, Daniel, "Students ask the tough questions at municipal election forum ", September 16, 2019, The Sunflower (student newspaper of Wichita State University), retrieved September 18, 2019
  10. ^ a b "Open For Business For Everyone"[permanent dead link], on the "Brandon Whipple: Mayor for Wichita" official website, retrieved September 18, 2019
  11. ^ a b McCoy, Daniel, "Longwell, Whipple top primary results for Wichita mayor ", August 7, 2019, Wichita Business Journal, retrieved September 18, 2019
  12. ^ Faulx, Nadya, "Longwell, Whipple Head To November Election For Wichita Mayor", August 6, 2019, KMUW-FM News, retrieved September 18, 2019
  13. ^ a b Lefler, Dion, "Final results: Longwell and Whipple to face off in mayor’s race; vote audit clean", August 15, 2019, Wichita Eagle, retrieved September 18, 2019
  14. ^ "August 6, 2019 Primary Election". sedgwickcounty.org. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  15. ^ Miller, Greg "Whipple gets firefighter endorsement for mayor", October 4, 2019, KAKE-TV, retrieved October 18, 2019
  16. ^ "Wichita's mayor steered multi-million-dollar water plant contract to friends", September 29, 2019 (Updated September 30, 2019), Wichita Eagle, retrieved October 19, 2019
  17. ^ a b "Mayor responds to allegations he played favorites in water treatment plant contract," September 29, 2019, KAKE-TV, retrieved October 19, 2019
  18. ^ Swaim, Chance, "Wichita mayor to cooperate with DA after complaint sparked by Eagle story," October 3, 2019 (Updated October 4, 2019), Wichita Eagle, retrieved October 19, 2019
  19. ^ a b "No charges for Wichita mayor after investigation: DA," October 17, 2019, KAKE-TV, retrieved October 19, 2019
  20. ^ "'Unfair' and 'inaccurate': Mayor Longwell rebuts 'Wichita Eagle' article on water-plant project," October 1, 2019, KWCH-TV, retrieved October 19, 2019
  21. ^ Lefler, Dion, "Restaurateur, former mayors seek to launch mayoral write-in campaign against Longwell," October 9, 2019 (Updated October 10, 2019), Wichita Eagle, retrieved October 19, 2019
  22. ^ "Two former Wichita mayors, restaurant CEO push Lyndy Wells write-in campaign," October 9, 2019 Kansas State Network, retrieved October 19, 2019
  23. ^ Swaim, Chance,"Wells launches write-in campaign for Wichita mayor," October 17, 2019 (Updated October 19, 2019), Wichita Eagle, retrieved October 19, 2019
  24. ^ Rep. Capps can’t explain why his firm's listed as creator of anti-Whipple fake-ad site, Wichita Eagle, Dion Lefler and Chance Swain, November 1, 2019. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  25. ^ GOP lawmaker accuses county Republican chair of approving ad against mayoral candidate, Wichita Eagle, Dion Lefler and Chance Swain, November 3, 2019. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  26. ^ O’Donnell, Capps, Clendenin conspired to smear Whipple, blame GOP chair, the lawsuit says, Wichita Eagle, Dion Lefler and Chance Swaim, October 14, 2020. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  27. ^ a b c Video-maker dropped from Whipple’s defamation lawsuit after turning over evidence, Wichita Eagle, Chance Swaim, October 23, 2020. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  28. ^ Election Summary Results Report OFFICIAL RESULTS 2019 General Election, Sedgwick County, Kansas, November 20, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2020.