Political expert breaks down crowded Wichita mayoral race

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – As voters in Wichita go to the polls Tuesday, the race drawing the most attention has a crowded field vying to be Wichita’s next mayor. Eight candidates are trying to unseat incumbent Mayor Brandon Whipple. Tuesday, voters will narrow the field down to two finalists that will appear on the ballot in November’s general election.

A challenge for voters is that, on the surface, there’s not a lot that separates many of the candidates on the biggest issues facing Wichita.

“I can see how voters would have a hard time differentiating between the candidates because on a lot of major issues, they are saying very similar things,” said Wichita State University Political Science Professor Dr. Neal Allen.

Nine candidates are trying to convince Wichitans that they’re the best to take the city into the future. Whipple has run his campaign on building a stronger economy, addressing homelessness and improving public transportation.

“We don’t want to take our foot off the gas when it comes to economic development,” he said.

But Dr. Allen said most of Whipple’s opponents see crime as his weakness, pointing to increases in crime and what they describe as a poor relationship between the police and the city.

“Whipple has been mayor at a time when crime is a concern, so the other candidates are trying to tie him to fears about crime,” Dr. Allen said. “Whipple responds with claims to have increased spending on the police by a lot, which is a fair argument.”

So who moves forward from Tuesday’s primary election? It’s a question that’s not easy to answer in an election with a low turnout. Typically only about 10% turn out for a local primary like this. Plus, there’s little to no polling.

But Dr. Allen thinks the Wichita mayoral race comes down to four of the eight candidates. From there, he said it’s too close for him to call on which two will advance to November.

“There are four candidates that are strong enough to make it to the runoff: Mayor Whipple, (former news anchor/reporter) Lily Wu, (Wichita City) Councilman Bryan Frye and activist Celeste Racette (Chairwoman for Save Century II),” Dr. Allen said.

Tuesday, voters have the final say on who will move on. Rounding out the field in the Wichita mayoral race include former news anchor/reporter and former Wichita City Councilmember Jared Cerullo, student and volunteer Shiela Davis (Rainman), Anthony Gallardo, businessman Tom Kane and environmental health and safety professional Julie Rose Stroud.

You can see candidate interviews below:

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