Correction: Jeff Blubaugh was first elected to the Wichita City Council in 2013 in a special election to replace Michael O’Donnell. How he joined the council was incorrect in a previous version of this story.
Bryan Frye will be the new Wichita City Council member in District 5, winning Tuesday’s election with 54 percent of the unofficial totals, compared with his opponent Gary Bond’s 44 percent.
In Districts 2 and 4, both incumbents – Pete Meitzner and Jeff Blubaugh – won re-election fairly handily. Meitzner won with 75 percent of the vote in District 2, and Blubaugh won with 62 percent of the vote in District 4.
The race for the open seat representing northwest Wichita was hotly contested between Frye, 49, a park board member and marketing director at KAKE, and Bond, 57, who also is in marketing and sales.
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Incumbent City Council member Jeff Longwell ran for mayor, paving the way for a new council member.
“Wichita is on the cusp of some great things, so let’s get started,” Frye said in a victory speech to about 75 supporters at Security First Title, who began popping champagne bottles and lighting cigars as the final votes were counted.
Throughout the campaign, Frye and Bond took similar stances on District 5 issues. They both advocated for a police substation to be built in northwest Wichita, saying it is one of the fastest-growing areas of the city. They emphasized taking care of the city’s needs such as finding an adequate water supply, replacing aging water and sewer lines, improving the bus system and repairing deteriorating streets before tackling the wants.
Frye’s campaign ended up raising about $29,000, while the Bond campaign raised approximately $5,000.
“It’s important in getting the message out and being able to communicate to the voters – it certainly helps,” Frye said. “How much of a difference I don’t know, but I didn’t want to take any chances.”
The race between Frye and Bond was fairly tight all evening Tuesday until Frye started pulling away toward the end of the night. Bond, at his watch party at Larry Bud’s, was confident early in the night that he could catch up with Frye and win.
“If I win, I think I’m going to sneak up on him,” he had said earlier in the evening. “He thinks he’s got this won.”
Bond said he left Frye a voice mail congratulating him on the win, and “if he wanted to talk later about the future of Wichita,” he’d “be available.”
“I think we ran a good race with the small amount of money we had compared to his,” Bond said. “We worked really, really hard, and I think we fought a good fight, and I’m not done with helping the city of Wichita.”
Frye said one of his first priorities on the City Council will be to address the new capital improvement plan, the city’s long-range blueprint for expensive projects.
“I know the CIP is going to get a lot of discussion, and that’s our priorities: getting our roads, police and fire lined up,” Frye said. “Those are campaign issues I hit strong, and I think that’s what people expect, to make sure we’ve got those infrastructure needs taken care of, and it starts with the CIP. We’ve got to review it, hash it out and make sure we’re all in agreement, to see where we go from there.”
Incumbent Meitzner handily outdistanced runner-up Jim Price in the March primary, and those results were mirrored on Tuesday in District 2 in east and northeast Wichita.
Meitzner, 59, works as a managing partner of a consulting firm. Price, 43, works in construction.
In his first four years as a City Council member, Meitzner said during the campaign, he counted the expansion of East Kellogg as one of his successes.
Meitzner did not return calls seeking comment.
In District 4 in southwest Wichita, incumbent council member Blubaugh retained his seat by outpolling his opponent, Josh Shorter, 62 percent to 37 percent.
Blubaugh was elected to the council two years ago to replace Michael O’Donnell, whose seat was vacated when he was elected to the state Senate.
Blubaugh, 43, owns a real estate business with his wife.
He said he felt like he had been campaigning for the past two years since being appointed to the council.
He said his primary focus is on growing exports and reducing the amount of illegal dumping in his district. District 4 plays host to a large amount of manufacturing companies, and he said he sees potential for growth there.
“The next four years is going to be a great opportunity to move the needle forward on the economy,” Blubaugh said.
Shorter, 26, who is the chief operating officer of Integrated Components, had stated during the campaign that he thought that government is broken and has underfunded key services such as police, fire departments and roads.
The city pays City Council members about $36,000 a year each for the part-time job.
Contributing: Kelsey Ryan of the Eagle