Wichitans in District 2 — which covers much of east and northeast Wichita — will elect their new City Council candidate on Nov. 5.
Residents of the district were able to start casting votes this week as early voting began. Their choices include a public health advocate, former state representative and a former speech writer for current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
While Becky Tuttle is the incumbent in the race, she’s held the seat for less than a year. The position was vacated after Pete Meitzner was elected to the Sedgwick County Commission.
Tuttle has chaired the District 2 advisory board, is a longtime public health advocate and the former community development director for the Greater Wichita YMCA.
While campaigning, Tuttle has said for Wichita’s economy to grow the city needs Wichitans to stay. That’s why she’s focusing on quality of life issues, particularly infrastructure and safety.
According to Tuttle, infrastructure is the number one concern she hears from her constituents. She touted her role in passing parking improvements for the Stryker Soccer Complex off Greenwich Road.
“We have 5,100 miles of roads in Wichita,” Tuttle said. “We're trying to figure out what's the best way that we revitalize the infrastructure that we have.”
On safety, Tuttle says the council has approved adding 90 new Wichita police officers in 2020.
"And many of them are community policing officers," Tuttle said. "What's important about that is those are the boots on the ground who are meeting with people every day."
Real estate broker Joseph Scapa spent two terms in the state Legislature — from 2011 to 2013 he represented District 87 and from 2015 to 2017 he represented District 88.
His campaign slogan is "back to the basics."
“When I talk to the people in [District 2], they're concerned about the basic functions of government,” Scapa said. “They're concerned about our infrastructure. They're concerned about our roads. The potholes that are showing up all over the place.”
Scapa is campaigning on social issues aligned with the modern Republican Party. Under family values, his campaign flyer lists opposing abortion and protecting the Second Amendment.
Besides bringing more police officers to Wichita’s streets, Scapa thinks addressing cultural issues is needed to improve safety in the city.
“We have to look at the root of the problem, which is a breakdown of our culture and families,” Scapa said. “Until that's done, everything else is like a Band-Aid approach.”
He's also spoken out against a Wichita library event held last year where a drag queen read to children. Scapa called the event an improper use of taxpayer funds and vows to appoint members to the library board who would oppose such events in the future.
Rodney Wren is a high school debate coach and a former speechwriter for then-congressional candidate Mike Pompeo from 2009 through 2011.
Wren considers the drag queen library event a nonissue — how someone dresses is less important than their promoting reading to children, according to Wren.
An issue he thinks is worthy of more attention is criminal justice reform.
"I understand that's going to take a broader effort ... with our state delegation,” Wren said. “But Wichita, as the largest municipality in Kansas, should be the leader in advocating and pushing for those kind of criminal justice reforms."
Both Scapa and Wren accuse city politicians of at least the appearance of cronyism, particularly around the controversy involving a water treatment plant deal. But Wren goes a step beyond calling out any possible backdoor deals — he says there should be no deals between specific businesses and city government, like Star Bonds projects.
“Selective business incentives don't work,” Wren said. “And Mayor (Jeff) Longwell and any others can try and make the argument that they do, but the data is just not there.”
Instead Wren wants to spur growth through a classic, free-market approach — by lowering taxes and cutting regulations.
“We need to make it as easy as possible for people to go and pursue their vision of whatever their American dream is,” Wren said.
Correction: The original version of this story labeled the wrong dates for Joseph Scapa's time representing District 87 and District 88.
Stephan Bisaha reports on education and young adult life for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha or email him at bisaha (at) kmuw (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on the health and well-being of Kansans, their communities and civic life.
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