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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Developers stand out in council fundraising

The Wichita Eagle

Some of Wichita's best-known downtown developers helped bankroll the campaigns of candidates with more relaxed views on using tax incentives to help businesses.

Old Town developer Dave Burk, for example, has been a steadfast supporter of Mayor Carl Brewer, a staunch advocate for downtown redevelopment.

Burk and his wife each gave maximum contributions of $500 to three candidates Brewer endorsed — Pete Meitzner in District 2, Joshua Blick in District 4 and Jeff Longwell, the District 5 incumbent — in the reporting period from Feb. 18 through March 24.

David Wells, co-founder of Key Construction, which has a significant stake in downtown development, has also been a strong Brewer supporter.

He and his wife gave $1,000 to Blick and Longwell and $1,500 to Meitzner ($500 will likely have to be returned since it is more than the maximum allowed).

But several other developers and businesspeople opened their checkbooks to help empower a different point of view.

Oilman and former congressional candidate Wink Hartman and his wife, for example, gave maximum contributions to Charlie Stevens in District 2 and Michael O'Donnell in District 4. Hartman gave $500 to District 5 candidate Lynda Tyler.

And real estate developer Steve Clark gave $500 each to Stevens and O'Donnell.

Clark compared making campaign contributions to doing business.

"The No. 1 thing we look for is someone with character and core values to do business with, and I look for the same thing in a candidate," he said.

Clark said he doesn't look for favors from politicians whose campaigns he supports with donations.

"We've done a lot of development in town, and I cant think of an instance where we've asked for a favor of anyone, and certainly not anyone we've given money," he said.

Several donors gave money to opposing campaigns.

Developer Jay Russell and his wife gave $1,000 to Stevens and $500 to Meitzner in the most recent reporting period.

Meitzner is close friends with Kevin Mullen, president of Ritchie Development, which has partnered on projects with Russell, so Russell said he helped Meitzner.

Charlie Stevens' father, Johnny Stevens, meanwhile is a close friend, Russell said.

So he gave to both.

Russell said he agrees with positions taken by each candidate and wants to help them get their message out to voters.

"It's kind of one of those situations where you give them both money and let the best man win," he said.

Russell has given to opposing candidates before — including mayoral candidates Carlos Mayans and Carl Brewer in 2007 and District 4 candidates Blick and June Bailey, who was eliminated in the primary.

Developer John McKay Jr. also gave money to both Meitzner and Stevens, along with Blick and District 3 candidate James Clendenin.

Brewer, Clendenin, Blick and Longwell each enjoy huge fundraising advantages over their opponents. Meitzner, meanwhile, has raised and spent more than Stevens, but the difference is minimal.

Campaign money can be spent in many ways, but most of it revolves around advertising — mail pieces, radio, print and television ads and yard signs.

Contributing: Fred Mann of The Eagle. Reach Brent D. Wistrom at 316-268-6228 or

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