Politics & Government

Wells launches write-in campaign for Wichita mayor

Lyndy Wells, third-place finisher in the August primary, announced his write-in candidacy Thursday for the upcoming mayoral election.

And he’s convinced he can win, he said.

“I am confident that I can win this. Otherwise, I would not do it. And I have been counseled by friends and supporters who have said don’t do this,” he said at a news conference Thursday afternoon in front of the Historic Sedgwick County Courthouse.

“But, again, I believe this is worth the effort because I care enough about our city and its future and the decisions we have to make in the next three of four years,” he said.

Wells, a retired public affairs director for Intrust Bank, said he’s not in the race to draw votes away from one candidate and help another candidate. Instead, he said, he wants to be an alternative for voters that aren’t satisfied with the two candidates.

“The support that I’ve received suggest that there were a lot of people that weren’t going to vote at all because they couldn’t make a decision. My effort here is really to give the voters an opportunity to consider another option that they might not have had otherwise,” he said.

The next three weeks are going to be an “uphill battle,” but said he’s prepared to knock on doors and make phone calls to give himself a fighting chance. He said he’s going to start Thursday night at the Riverfront Legacy Master Plan meeting.

“We didn’t get much input into development of the west bank, so I think it’s important that we all have an opportunity to consider how we’re going to use the east bank and how we can dream big and then work together to execute on those goals,” he said.

The west bank of the Arkansas River, just west of downtown Wichita, is being developed into a ballpark village centered on a taxpayer-funded $75 million stadium. To get the team to come to Wichita, the city agreed to sell 4 acres of riverfront land to the team’s owners for $1 an acre.

That part of the deal to bring the team to Wichita wasn’t disclosed until after Lawrence-Dumont Stadium had already been torn down and a contract to build a new stadium had been signed.

That’s the kind of “behind-the-scenes” maneuvering Wells said he wants to put to an end.

His announcement comes on the heels of a “Run Lyndy Run” campaign aimed at getting him into the race.

That effort was funded by Jon Rolph, president and CEO of Thrive Restaurant Group and recent appointment to the Kansas Board of Regents. He said he launched the campaign because of an Eagle article showing how Mayor Jeff Longwell steered a multi-million-dollar contract for the city’s new water treatment plant to his friends and golfing partners.

Rolph said Longwell’s handling of the contract “looks to me like it’s ethically bankrupt.”

Rolph launched a website and said he planned to spend $10,000 running commercials featuring two former mayors, Carl Brewer and Bob Knight, who have expressed their support of Wells for mayor.

Brewer and Knight said one candidate has damaged public trust. The other candidate, they said, lacks experience.

The top two finishers in the August primary are Longwell, who has been on the City Council since 2007 and mayor since 2015, and Kansas Rep. Brandon Whipple, who has been in state office since 2013.

Whipple edged out Wells by 297 votes in the primary, which featured nine candidates. If the public had known about Longwell’s handling of the water contract before the primary, the outcome might have been different, Wells said.

“I think the spirit of the community has changed since the information The Eagle published came out about how our water treatment facility was developed and the plan for the construction of that new facility,” Wells said.

Putting more attention on the new water treatment facility, and other necessities that create an environment that helps Wichita grow, will be Wells’ primary focus if he’s elected mayor, he said.

“We’ve got a water treatment facility that is our Achilles’ heel in this community,” Wells said. “It’s a single point of failure. I serve on the Via Christi Health System Board, and I know that no water for one day in a hospital is life-threatening for a lot of people.”

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Chance Swaim won the Betty Gage Holland Award in 2018 for distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. He has been a news reporter for The Wichita Eagle since 2018. You can contact him at 316-269-6752 and cswaim@wichitaeagle.com.