If you didn't think your vote could make a difference, think again. Only 10 votes pushed candidate Pete Meitzner over the top to beat Steve Harris in east Wichita's District 2, where Charlie Stevens led the pack by 130 votes. The top two candidates advance to the general election April 5.
Harris said he won't call for a recount. But Election Commissioner Bill Gale said 88 provisional ballots were cast in Wichita and that could alter the final tally later this week. He did not know how many of those were in District 2.
Gale will present recommendations on which provisional ballots to accept to the Sedgwick County Board of Canvassers on Friday. He said most provisionals, perhaps 90 percent, are accepted. Provisional ballots are votes cast by people who are not listed as eligible voters at a particular polling place but say they're eligible.
Harris said he's hopeful the slim margin that led to his unofficial defeat might encourage more people to vote.
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"Maybe people will look at how close this election was and say 'Hey, 10 votes! Every vote counts,' " Harris said. "That's a pretty strong message. Maybe some good will come of it that way."
The 7.7 percent of registered voters who cast a ballot Tuesday strongly backed Mayor Carl Brewer and advanced other candidates by relatively slim margins to set the stage for the April 5 election.
Gale had predicted a 9 percent turnout for the primary. He said no significant problems were reported at the polls. "Of course, it's pretty easy for it to go smooth when the turnout is poor."
With more than $106,000 poured into campaigns and well over $45,600 spent, many expected the District 2 race to be close.
But perhaps not 10 votes close.
If Meitzner emerges as the official second-place finisher, he'll face Stevens, who had $38,927 in campaign money on hand and has been backed by the political action group Americans for Prosperity, which advocates for limited government.
Meitzner last reported having $10,777 on hand, but later filed a report showing an additional $6,300 in contributions.
Stevens, 41, is a real estate investor and amateur golfer. Meitzner, 55, is managing partner of Meitzner and Associates and chairman of the board for the Lord's Diner.
Both have advocated for the city to focus on core services, but their responses to The Eagle's recent questions provide a contrast.
Stevens said the city should look for alternatives to the affordable airfare program that funnels taxpayer money to airline companies to reduce the cost of flying at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
"A better solution might be to consider a small tax added to airline tickets from Wichita," he wrote. "It would need to be just a few dollars on each ticket to support the cost of the subsidy. In this way, the people who directly benefit are the ones paying for it."
Meitzner has said he strongly supports the program.
"Low airfares are a must," he wrote. "Expensive fares are detrimental to everyone."
Stevens said Tuesday night that he plans to continue campaigning on reduced government spending and eliminating waste.
"We need to get out of the development business and speculating with taxpayer money," he said.
Meitzner could not be reached by phone Tuesday evening.
James Clendenin and Mark Gietzen advanced in District 3, which represents south and southeast Wichita.
Clendenin, 36, a CNC machinist for Goodrich Cabin Systems, was the leading vote-getter with 38 percent of the vote to Gietzen's 31 percent.
Clendenin said the biggest difference between them is that he looks more favorably on the use of economic development tools such as tax increment financing districts, community improvement districts and industrial revenue bonds to grow the city.
"I am willing, in the right situation, to do what's best and help businesses with incentives to keep things rolling in Wichita, if that's what it takes," Clendenin said.
Gietzen couldn't be reached for comment. He has said the free market — not government money — should determine what businesses succeed or fail.
"Let people vote with their dollars," Gietzen has said. "The government shouldn't be picking winners and losers."
Clendenin said the main message he will try to send during his campaign is that he will listen to everyone in the community he is serving, and ask the appropriate questions.
He wants to help with economic development in the district, which includes making sure that the interchange project at 47th South and I-135 moves forward.
Gietzen, 57, a database manager, leader of an anti-abortion group and business owner, has said the best thing that the city can do to create new jobs is to create a business-friendly environment, meaning good roads and infrastructure, a stable and efficient court system, good public safety, and, mostly, low taxes.
Joshua Blick and Michael O'Donnell advanced in District 4, which covers south and southwest Wichita.
Blick advanced with 32 percent of the vote, O'Donnell with 29 percent.
Blick, 33, admissions coordinator at Wichita Technical Institute, said the biggest difference between them is that he has been engaged in the community as an active leader for eight years.
Blick is a member of the district advisory board, the city's board of zoning appeals and president of the Southwest Neighborhood Association.
O'Donnell, 26, sales and marketing rep for Clear Channel radio and communications director for Wink Hartman, said he is a fourth-generation resident of the district, while Blick has lived there eight years.
O'Donnell also cited his bachelor's degree. Blick has a GED.
O'Donnell has touted his experience in his district as a member of the south YMCA board and involvement with nonprofits in the district.
Blick said he will focus on the three main responsibilities for the City Council — public safety, infrastructure and balancing the budget — as he campaigns for the general election.
He believes the city has a limited role in creating and retaining jobs.
"Instead of looking at trying to steal jobs from other states and other counties, we need to focus on local businesses. That's what's going to make Wichita grow," Blick said.
O'Donnell said the ideas he will emphasize during the campaign are job creation with less government intrusion, and keeping the city away from using economic incentive tools like community improvement districts, tax incentive financing districts and industrial revenue bonds, which he called "handouts."
"I want to give people more freedom, more limited local government and focus on police, fire and infrastructure," O'Donnell said.
Brewer, the incumbent mayor and former District 1 council member, entered the election with strong support and a lot more campaign money than his competitors.
It paid off.
Brewer landed 11,347 votes — 76 percent — compared to his nearest competitor, Darrell Leffew, who received 1,465 — or 9 percent.
Brewer said he plans to head into the general election with the same agenda and message he has had for months.
He said he wants to bring people together, promote economic development and deal with a difficult budget.
He said his experience and the confidence people have in him sets him apart from the competition.
But just because he walked away from the primary with more than three quarters of the votes doesn't mean he plans to relax.
"You don't take anything for granted," he said. "You continue to work equally as hard as before you go into the primary. Coasting is not an option."
Leffew, owner of Meridian Construction and a former member of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, plans to give voters an alternative.
He said he'll examine city spending and find waste — though he couldn't provide any specific examples Tuesday.
"We know there's waste," he said. "It's inherent in government."
Leffew said he'd seek ways to reduce regulations. For example, he thinks there should be a way to streamline zoning changes.
He also wants to reduce the use of consultants, and that city employees have the knowledge to do the work the city currently outsources.
Some people have told him the city needs outside opinions.
"I don't think we ever need an outside view," he said.
Only two candidates — incumbent Jeff Longwell and Lynda Tyler — are running in northwest Wichita's District 5. Both automatically advanced to the general election.