Updated 9:18 p.m.: Incumbents win Wichita City Council races

Wichita Eagle

Updated 9:18 p.m.: Final, unofficial results show Wichita City Council incumbents will keep their seats for another four years.

Challengers had high hopes of winning but weren’t able to pull ahead in their races Tuesday night.

With all 29 precincts reporting, Becky Tuttle won 5,905 (60,8%) of District 2 votes. Joseph Scapa received 2,895 (29.8%) and Rodney Wren got 846 (8.7%).

In District 4, Jeff Blubaugh won 3,505 votes (nearly 58%), slowing inching ahead of his closest rival, Beckie Jenek, as the night wore on. Jenek ended with 2,091 votes (34.6%). Christopher Parisho received 427 votes, or about 7%. A total of 25 precincts reported.

In District 5, Bryan Frye received about two-thirds of the support, winning 6,433 votes (67.9%). Mike Magness ended the evening with 2,969 votes, or about 31.3% support.

Race results are not final until the canvas on Nov. 15.

Updated 8:37 p.m.: Wichita City Council incumbents are maintaining their leads as results from precincts pour in.

With 15 of 29 precincts reporting in District 2, Becky Tuttle is leading 62 percent to Joseph Scapa’s 27 percent. Rodney Wren has slightly more than 9%.

In District 4, Jeff Blubaugh widened his edge over Beckie Jenek, about 53 to nearly 39 percent of the vote, with 7 of 25 precincts reporting. Christopher Parisho has just over 7 percent.

And with 16 of 26 precincts reporting in District 5, Bryan Frye continued to lead Mike Magness, 67 to 32 percent.

Win or lose, Jenek said she’s proud of her campaign.

“I’ve learned a lot along the way,” she said. “And I made an impact.”

“At the end of the day, I just want people to vote, and I want people to know that their voice matters. I’m going to continue to advocate for that, no matter what.”

Updated 7:45 p.m.: With advance ballots in, Wichita City Council members have early leads over their challengers. But that could change as precincts begin reporting.

In District 2, Becky Tuttle had a solid hold on her seat, raking in 70 percent of the vote. Joseph Scapa trailed behind with 20 percent, followed by Rodney Wren with nearly 9 percent.

District 4 council member Jeff Blubaugh was slightly ahead of Beckie Jenek, with about 48 percent of the vote compared to her 45 percent. Christopher Parisho had 6 percent.

Meanwhile in District 5, incumbent Bryan Frye was leading Mike Magness, 67 to 21 percent.

Voters cast more than 2,500 advance ballots in both Districts 2 and 5, which represent east and west Wichita. There were nearly 1,600 cast in southwest Wichita’s District 4.

Original story: Wichita’s City Council challengers have their brooms out, and they say they’re ready to sweep up City Hall.

A majority of Wichita’s seven-member City Council, including the mayor’s seat, is up for grabs this election cycle.

All five city council challengers in the three races are calling for ethics reforms, increasing transparency and ending corruption. If elected, they’ve all said they would make fundamental changes to the way the city does business, including placing limits on gifts council members are allowed to receive from contractors and developers.

Incumbents have said the city’s communication to the public could improve but, overall, Wichita is on the right track. Each said they would be willing to revisit the city’s ethics policy.

Calls for increased transparency came after the public was left in the dark about some of the city’s biggest projects, including an agreement to sell riverfront property as part of a deal to bring a Minor League Baseball team to Wichita. The city council voted unanimously to sell riverfront land overlooking downtown for $1 an acre.

Limits on gifts became a key issue after The Eagle reported undisclosed gifts received by Mayor Jeff Longwell before he steered a multimillion dollar contract for the city’s new water treatment plant to his friends.

The city’s current ethics policy does not place a limit on gifts elected officials can accept.

The challengers in the City Council race have all come out strongly against Longwell’s and the council’s decision to go against staff recommendations in awarding the water project.

Incumbents have defended their votes and Longwell’s actions repeatedly during the past five weeks, but they say they’re willing to make changes.

Three of Wichita’s four council seats are district-specific races, meaning only voters from a district can vote in that district’s race. The mayoral race is citywide. The races are nonpartisan, meaning party affiliations do not appear on the ballot.

City council members are elected to four-year terms and serve part time on the council. They are paid $42,759 a year.

District 2 - east Wichita

The District 2 council member represents the far east side of Wichita, roughly from Woodlawn east to the city limits and the northern city limits south to Pawnee. It does not include the neighborhoods of Comotara Mainsgate Village, Cottonwood Village or the Northeast K-96 neighborhood.

Candidates include council member Becky Tuttle, 49, and challengers Joseph Scapa, 45, and Rodney Wren, 38.

Pete Meitzner, who left his council seat for the Sedgwick County Commission at the end of 2018, handily carried the district in 2015 against Jim Price by a 75-24 vote.

Tuttle is participating in her first election, after being appointed to the council as Meitzner’s replacement earlier this year. Prior to her appointment, Tuttle was a YMCA executive and chairwoman of the District 2 Advisory Board. She told The Eagle that retaining and recruiting a talented workforce is her number one issue.

Scapa, a real estate broker, is no stranger to politics. He was a State Representative for District 87 (2011 to 2012) and District 88 (2015 to 2016). He is pro-life, supports the Second Amendment, wants to protect traditional family values and vows to stop drag queen story hour at the public library.

Wren, a teacher and debate coach Wichita Collegiate High School and a former speechwriter for Mike Pompeo when he served in Congress, said the city’s number one issue is ending the “good old boys club” at City Hall. He said he’s a principled policymaker and vows to fight against cronyism. He said he thinks the government should stop picking winners and losers and disagrees with Scapa on drag queen story hour.

Tuttle’s campaign received the most money, by far, in the District 2 race. She raised $64,224.94. She spent less than half of that — $27,151. Scapa spent all of the $12,700 available to his campaign. Wren spent $440 of $620.

District 2 by the numbers

Registered voters: 45,067

2015 turnout: 6,936 (19.93%)

Republican: 19,207

Democratic: 10,551

Unaffiliated: 14,911

Libertarian: 398

District 4 - southwest Wichita

The District 4 council member represents the southwest part of Wichita.

Candidates include City Council member Jeff Blubaugh, Beckie Jenek and Christopher Parisho.

Blubaugh, a 47-year-old real estate broker, has been on the City Council since 2013, when he was elected by special election in the district to replace Michael O’Donnell, who vacated his seat to join the State Senate. Blubaugh won the special election by 46 votes. In 2015, he was re-elected by a 62-37 percentage split.

Blubaugh said the biggest issue facing the city is taking care of its core areas of responsibility, such as the new water treatment plant and streets, along with public safety, police and fire. He wants to do so without raising taxes, he said.

Jenek, a 44-year-old operations manager at Edison Lighting Supply, said the most pressing issue for the city is ensuring the safety of its water supply — and doing so “in a manner which is transparent and free from corruption.”

Parisho, a 46-year-old photographer, treasurer of Delano United and past president of the Delano Neighborhood Association, said the biggest issues are ethics, transparency and improved communications. He said he wants to be “the voice of the people” on the City Council.

Blubaugh spent $17,059.86 of the $60,294.86 he received from campaign donors. Jenek spent $6,273.88 of $8,571.03 she raised. Parisho said he did not accept donations on principle and raised $0.

District 4 by the numbers:

Registered voters (2019): 34,270

2015 turnout: 4,895 (17.2%)

Republican: 12,185

Democratic: 7,935

Unaffiliated: 13,809

Libertarian: 341

District 5 - west Wichita

The District 5 council member represents the west side of Wichita, north of Maple.

Candidates include council member Bryan Frye, 53, and Mike Magness, 55.

Frye, who works as senior director of investor relations for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, was elected by a 55-45 percentage split in 2015. He ran on a platform of taking care of the city’s infrastructure and his priorities have remained the same since taking office, he said.

Magness, a history teacher at South High, has been a public school teacher for 23 years and has been a youth sports coach. He said he wants to put a future plan for the city out for a vote and let the citizens decide whether the city can compete with peer cities that are outpacing Wichita in population growth and private investment.

Frye, like the other incumbents, out-raised and outspent his opponent. He received $40,401.52 in campaign contributions and spent $6,689.70. Magness raised $3,365 and spent $3,284.04.

District 5 by the numbers:

Registered voters (2019): 44,662

2015 turnout: 8,005 (22.5%)

Republican: 21,510

Democratic: 8,574

Unaffiliated: 14,198

Libertarian: 380

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.
Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.