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Wichita City Council incumbent Cindy Claycomb raises more than other candidates – by a lot

Nadya Faulx, File Photo

More attention – and money - is being given to local Wichita elections, as suggested by recent campaign finance reports.

Incumbent City Council member Cindy Claycomb had four times as much money available to her campaign than her opponent, according to recent campaign finance reports.

Claycomb had $141,000 on hand during the July through October reporting period – the most of any candidate.

Her opponent, Maggie Ballard, had more than $34,000 available during that same period – mostly from individual contributions. It’s the second-most amount of cash available among all six City Council candidates.

Neal Allen, the chair of Wichita State University's political science department, said while Claycomb has raised the most money, that won’t guarantee her the election.

“Money is not votes and just because a candidate raises a lot and spends a lot, doesn’t mean they’re going to win,” Allen said. “Fundraising is necessary to run a viable campaign, but the candidate who raises more money doesn’t always win.”

About a third of Claycomb's contributions came from area businesses, political action committees and LLCs, or limited liability companies. That includes a number of LLCs registered in the same downtown building that Claycomb used as an address to file her reports.

State campaign finance laws say as long as contributions don’t exceed $500 in both the primary and general election, they are legal.

“Companies are considered people under the law and so as long as they’re a registered business, then they have the right to give to campaigns as well,” said Mark Skoglund, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. The commission oversees the state's campaign finance laws.

District 3 incumbent City Council member Jared Cerullo had the third-most money available for his campaign with a little more than $31,000. Most of that also came from area businesses and LLCs.

Cerullo was appointed to the Wichita City Council earlier this year, giving him the benefit of running as an incumbent, according to Allen.

“Cerullo’s biggest fundraising advantage right now is that he is in office and is part of the construction of city policy," Allen said. "So, the fact that he has more corporate and business contributions than other candidates is not that surprising.”

His opponent, Mike Hoheisel, is running a grassroots campaign, which has raised more money through individual contributions.

Incumbent District 1 City Council member Brandon Johnson had about $25,000 available to his campaign during the reporting period. Johnson is running against Myron Ackerman, who reported only $1,000 during that same period.

Overall, Allen said the recent campaign finance reports reflect an increase of interest in local elections.

“These totals show that city policy and politics is just a lot more relevant to citizens than it was two or three years ago,” Allen said, “and the pandemic has really brought out the importance of government in people’s lives and the necessity of being involved if you want to affect your quality of life and how government either improves it or doesn’t improve it.”

With lower voter turnout during odd-year elections, Allen said each vote will carry a greater influence in the outcome of this year’s election.

“Every citizen should know that just because there is more money raised than before doesn’t mean that your vote doesn’t count,” Allen said. “The City Council races on the ballot this year are the best places in recent times for voters to influence real public policy because the turnout is going to be low and so every vote has a lot more impact.”

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.