Jennifer Winn, the former Republican primary opponent of Gov. Sam Brownback, intends to run for mayor of Wichita this spring.
Although she lost, Winn drew about 37 percent – more than 94,000 votes – in the August primary against Brownback.
“The momentum and support we gained through that entire event was overwhelming,” Winn said of her bid for governor.
The urging of her supporters is what helped her decide to run for mayor, she said.
“I had people come to me and say, ‘We didn’t win the gubernatorial race but look at what they’re doing at home. How can you fix it at home?’” Winn said. “I thought, ‘I don’t know, do I want to tackle this again in 2018? How do I want to move forward?’ I’m not one to remain silent. I don’t ever stop. I don’t give up and cannot sit idle until the next gubernatorial race in 2018.”
“That’s the reality for me. That’s who I am.”
Winn is the first declared candidate in the race to replace Mayor Carl Brewer, who cannot run again after serving two terms.
Winn was born in Wichita and mostly grew up here. She attended Wichita West High School. She has four children and eight grandchildren.
Winn started Landscapes Inc. in 2003 with $100. Now, it does $2.5 million in yearly sales with 38 employees, she said.
Winn says her top priority if elected would be transparency in government.
Winn is skeptical of the city’s proposals for the 1 percent sales tax that would collect $400 million over five years for water, street maintenance, transit and job development. The tax will be on the November ballot.
One of her concerns, she says, is what the city of Wichita is doing with tax dollars. “We give money to places like Go Wichita, the Downtown Development Corporation, the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. They take our money, our tax dollars, and then they make themselves exempt from us knowing how they spent our money and are exempt from Kansas Open Records requests. The bottom line is the city has the power to say, ‘We’re not giving you money unless you show us how it’s spent,’ and they don’t do that. The question for me is ‘Why?’”
She also has doubts about the job development portion of the proposed sales tax plan, saying that the city “has a longstanding practice of awarding bids, incentives and subsidies to a select few companies while the rest of us struggle to compete.”
Transparency also should extend to the police department, Winn said.
Last week, The Eagle obtained records from the city that showed that Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams was on the Brady-Giglio list, which requires prosecutors to disclose certain information that might help the defense or might be used to challenge the credibility of witnesses during a trial.
Williams recently retired, and there has been speculation that he may run for mayor. City Manager Robert Layton told The Eagle that Williams was not forced into retirement.
“The lack of transparency around the so-called retirement of Williams is appalling,” Winn said. “We have the right to know why officers are placed on the Brady-Giglio list and especially the chief himself. After all, they’re to protect and serve us.”
At an August City Council meeting, Winn spoke in favor of petitioners who want to see marijuana decriminalization put to a vote.
Legalizing marijuana and taxing it would help state revenue and allow other taxes to be lowered, she told The Eagle in a previous interview.
Son’s case moved her to act
Winn became active in politics after her 22-year-old son, Kyler Carriker, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Ronald Betts after a drug deal turned violent.
The state’s felony murder law allows someone to be charged with murder if they participate in a crime that results in a death.
Her son was unjustly prosecuted, she said.
The spring general election is slated for April 7, which is when petitioners hope to have the question of marijuana decriminalization on the ballot.
Winn has not yet filed any formal paperwork for the election. The spring registration deadline for candidates to file is Jan. 27, 2015, according to the Sedgwick County Election Office.
Until the election gets closer, Winn said she and her supporters will be working to help suspended voters and other people register to vote.
“The initial drive for us is to get people registered and make sure their voice is going to be heard,” she said.