Politics & Government

Mayor Longwell launches re-election campaign amid crew of political notables

Wichita mayor cites several cities as success stories

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell regularly points to several cities where he says new Minor League ballparks successfully spurred development. Charlotte, Durham, N.C., and Indianapolis are the three places Longwell touts.
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Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell regularly points to several cities where he says new Minor League ballparks successfully spurred development. Charlotte, Durham, N.C., and Indianapolis are the three places Longwell touts.

Amid a crowd of local political notables, Mayor Jeff Longwell formally launched his bid for re-election Thursday with a promise to stay the course.

The mayor, who is finishing his first term in office, said the key to winning another term is “just sharing the good news that we have been fortunate enough to be part of for the last four years.”

“Our economy has turned around locally,” Longwell said. “If you go back four years ago, we didn’t have surpluses of budget. We didn’t have 15 percent of our general fund put away in a safe, secure account. We were looking at cutting things. Now we’re looking at expanding programs and the forecast looks really good.”

Longwell had already filed to run for re-election.

He spoke Thursday with his wife Susie at his side, smiling and clapping.

Seated in the audience of supporters were a number of well-known political figures, including state Senate President Susan Wagle; Sedgwick County commissioners David Dennis and Michael O’Donnell; City Council members Bryan Frye and Jeff Blubaugh; county Republican Party Chairman Dalton Glasscock; and Alan Cobb, a former member of President Trump’s political team who now is CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

While at the podium, Longwell accepted a $500 campaign donation check from the Farmers Insurance Political Action Committee.

Jose Gutierrez, district manager for Farmers, “just wanted to show his support for us and he asked if he could present a check today and I said ‘sure,’” Longwell said.

PAC contributions were banned from city elections until 3 1/2 years ago, when the council decided to allow them, based on advice from the city attorney. That came shortly after the Legislature mandated moving city and school board elections from spring to the fall.

So far, the best-known challenger to enter the mayor race is state Rep. Brandon Whipple, who filed preliminary candidacy papers earlier this week.

Whipple said the city is running “on autopilot” and that some areas of town are being shortchanged on public improvements because of a fixation on downtown redevelopment.

Longwell said he isn’t taking anything for granted, but it will be hard for Whipple or anyone else to challenge how the city’s been run the last four years.

“We have a lot of good news to share and we believe it will be hard for someone to run on a platform different from that,” Longwell said.

Also running for mayor are Brock Booker, a community volunteer and former Friends University Singing Quaker; Ian Demory, a musician and Haysville schoolteacher; and Marty Mork, who has unsuccessfully run twice for mayor, twice for the Legislature and once for the City Council.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.
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