By traditional political measures — such as name recognition, financing and experience — none of the men challenging Mayor Carl Brewer in this year's election stands much of a chance.
At least not yet.
Of the five challengers, three — Roy Malcom, Paul Rhodes and Scott Thode — have weak name recognition and have promised not to spend more than $500 on their campaigns.
Asked about entering a race with a well-financed incumbent, Rhodes grinned and joked: "I'm actually walking for mayor."
But he thinks his website and in-person networking give him as good a chance as the others in the March 1 primary. The general election is April 5.
Two other candidates, Darrell Leffew and Marty Mork, have run for mayor before and failed to draw enough support to clear the primary.
"I don't believe you can buy an election," Mork said. "I believe it's the ideas and what we stand for. That's how I'm going to overcome it."
History works against them.
No one has won a City Council election in recent memory without raising and spending more than $500. Some recent mayoral candidates have spent more than $100,000.
Brewer spent $98,160 between Feb. 16 and March 22 in the heat of his race against incumbent Carlos Mayans four years ago.
Mayans, meanwhile, spent $76,814 during that time frame. During the primary, Mayans spent $9,483 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 that year compared to Brewer's $22,122.
Bill Warren dropped $117,707 between Jan. 1, 2003, and Feb. 13, 2003.
But, for now, forget the dollar signs and the exposure that money buys. Even set aside the value of having a familiar name.
Grassroots campaigning can still beat big names and big money, right?
"Never underestimate anybody," Brewer said.
Darrell Leffew said he plans to raise and spend a small amount, but he doesn't plan to try to match Brewer financially.
He said the race is about issues, particularly the proposed trash hauling cooperative, which he opposes philosophically.
"I think this election, all four positions, may come down to that very topic," he said. "So the issues will really speak for themselves."
Leffew said most of his campaigning will be done by volunteers going door to door and by in-person phone calls.
He said that he will likely have to raise more if he advances to the general election, but he hopes to keep it minimal.
"Why spend the money if we don't need to?" he said. "Which is exactly what I hope to bring to the city."
Roy Malcom says campaign money shouldn't matter.
The city is cutting its budget, and a good leader leads by example, he says.
He has promised not to spend more than $500.
But he said he still plans to get a banner printed, use his website, and go to as many meetings and gatherings as he can — as he has done before filing for mayor.
Malcom says he attends services at a variety of churches to stay in touch and be exposed to diverse views.
"I'm being proactive, and I think people will see that," he said.
Scott Thode didn't respond to a reporter's calls, but he seems to be trying to harness social media and gather support from friends and acquaintances.
On one page, grandmasterplan.com, he challenges supporters to make their own signs and spread the word.
"You are the campaign committee. You are the resistance. You are no political insiders," the page says.
Writing for The Eagle's voter guide, he said that Wichitans have a chance to start something with this election.
"They may choose the status quo, but at least they will do so given full knowledge that they have a humble servant willing to listen, and not afraid to question the powers when warranted," he wrote. "I know I am not the comfortable choice, but that is the cornerstone of this campaign."
Marty Mork said that his exposure to voters in 2004 and 2006 U.S. House races should help him. But he said he has no intention of raising the kind of money Brewer has.
He said his message of restoring freedom, putting people back to work and lowering taxes will resonate.
Mork said he thinks DUI checkpoints are "communism," and he said he would work to ensure Wichita businesses that hire illegal immigrants wouldn't receive any local taxpayer money. He said he'd like to see the city adopt a policy similar to the controversial immigration law passed in Arizona last year.
"We have to do something," he said. "They're taking over and not only are they taking over but they're going to control after a while."
Mork said that he is disabled and can't get out to campaign a lot, though he tries. He and his daughters print fliers from their home computer and distribute them to spread his message.
"I just want people to know who I am and what I'm about," he said.
Paul Rhodes said that his existing friendships throughout the community and his website are his primary tools.
He said he's frustrated by the focus on campaign money.
"I think politics is whatever you make of it," he said. "I consider myself a patriot."
After Rhodes had run-ins with city staff, and after he measured the distance between concrete pillars intended to block cars from crashing into City Hall, the city issued a trespass warning in January 2009. It requires Rhodes to be escorted by a security officer when he has legitimate business at City Hall.
Rhodes said he was simply pointing out the absurdity of city security and that the blocks were spaced wide enough apart to still let a car through.
Rhodes said he wants to provide "passion, unity and leadership in city government."
He is also a strong advocate for recycling who has volunteered on recycling efforts.
"If I get 100 votes," he said, "it'll just let me know there are 100 people out there who appreciate what I've done."
Brewer has been through several campaigns, and he said money and name recognition only go so far.
"There's only so much message you can get out there," he said. "At the end of the day, it falls back to basic grassroots politics."
Brewer said he's doing many of the same things he did running nearly a decade ago: knocking on doors, passing out yard signs and having meet-and-greets over coffee.
"It's still the same basic campaigning 101," he said, noting that the exceptions are social media avenues such as Facebook and Twitter.
"You just have to trust the citizens," he said. "They know what they want."
The mayor acts as the official head of the city on formal occasions, leads City Council meetings and signs documents approved by the City Council. The job pays $82,654 a year. Two of these six candidates will advance to the general election April 5.
1. What are your top three priorities for the city, and how would you accomplish them?
2. Explain why you do or do not support the proposed trash hauling cooperative. What do you think could improve it?
3. Name someone who is relatively famous, whom you admire.
Education: North High; Friends University; Kansas Military Academy
Political experience: Wichita City Council, 2001-07; mayor, 2007-11
Web site: www.electcarlbrewer.com
1. Create jobs by continuing efforts to diversify our job base (wind energy and composites) and through downtown redevelopment. 2. Continue to reduce the budget while protecting core services and maintaining low taxes. 3. Bring Southwest Airlines to Wichita.
Any successful proposal should: 1. not cause any job loss in the trash hauling industry; 2. ensure the lowest price possible for users; 3. encourage recycling; and 4. minimize street wear and tear and protect our air quality.
I admire Colin Powell because of his ability to hold a high-ranking position as a military officer and high-level governmental offices while never losing sight of the best interests of the citizens and the country.
Occupation: General contractor
Education: Some college
Web site: www.wichitamayor.org
1. Jobs: We must keep taxes lower than other cities. Quality of life must be defined as better roads, safer neighborhoods and well funded police and fire departments to attract jobs. 2. Reduce regulations. 3. Protect private property rights by limiting the use of eminent domain.
It certainly does nothing to lower cost. The free market system has worked in this country for more than 200 years and it will continue to do so if government stays out of business. Let me decide what local business I trade with whether it be trash or other.
The men and women of the United States military who put their lives at risk for our freedom. The men and women of our police and fire departments who put their lives at risk protecting mine. The average citizen who gets knocked down only to get back up and try again.
Occupation: Mayoral candidate
Education: Master's degree in service/production management from Friends University
Political experience: None
Web site: roymalcom.yolasite.com
1. City affairs
3. New ideas to help build infrastructure and stimulate growth
The trash truck needs to go to a sorting factory, not the landfill. This fight will play out. What kind of city do you want to live and work in?
I trust President Bill Clinton; he's already answered a lot of the nation's hardest problems. He's done a lot post presidency. I love the idea of having surplus.
Martin 'Marty' Mork
Occupation: Former state grain inspector, former Boeing employee, now disabled
Education: Ninth grade
Political experience: None
1. Bring back freedoms to the people ... by repealing laws that are communist. 2. Jobs. No longer allow companies that hire illegal aliens to do our construction and infrastructure. Give tax dollars to companies that hire legal workers. 3. Bring a Disney theme park as well as Universal Studios to Wichita.
I do not support it. I believe in freedom of choice of our trash services. Otherwise, we no longer have a free enterprise.
I admire Bill Clinton, because when he was president, groceries were cheap, gasoline was cheap, and you could find a job. Also our government was in surplus.
Education: Wichita North High School; Butler Community College associate's degree
Political experience: None
Web site: rhodesformayor.com
I have one priority: to increase unity in our community by promoting leadership at all levels of city government. Accountability and transparency are secondary responsibilities; I would expect to adhere to those principals and to be easily accessible to those I serve.
Consolidated routes are part of the issue. It seems hypocritical to talk about just trash trucks when we have the post office, UPS, etc. on our streets. Pay as you throw has got to be modus operandi for real recycling. The city could collect money at tipping point and direct it to street repair.
Mohandas Gandhi. He studied and quoted many religious authors, then decided what he believed and lived life accordingly. He is the epitome of simplicity and integrity. One of my favorite quotes is, "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Occupation: Head rigger/flyman/carpenter, IA Local 190; also specializes in theatrical installations
Education: Some college
Political experience: None
Web site: grandmasterplan.com
Jobs for everyone who needs one. Build some durability into our economy. Look to stability and transparency in policies, to secure an economic environment that will expand competitive advantages for existing businesses and attract a diversity of others.
No! There are much better ideas that could end up better serving everyone's interests, while increasing opportunities to current and future haulers and recyclers. We can do recycling, bulk-hauling and cleanups without locking down the market, currently dominated by non-local companies.
R. Buckminster Fuller, a onetime Wichitan who dedicated his life to finding out just how much a difference in the world one person could make. His writings and "artifacts" are a treasure-trove of ideas about "doing more with less" that attempt to lead us out of the cold night of scarcity and killing, towards a brighter tomorrow of abundance, stewardship and a durable future centered on supporting human life., rather than destroying it. I oft quote him as saying "You can't change people, but you can change their environment."