Wichita will have a new mayor next year.
State Rep. Brandon Whipple toppled incumbent Mayor Jeff Longwell Tuesday after carrying a lead all night. Unofficial results show Whipple got 46% of the vote over Longwell’s 36%. Another 17% were write-in votes.
The night ended an election campaign that was contentious on both sides. Whipple said he wasn’t confident about winning.
“They fired a lot of shots at us, we were outspent, but we weren’t outworked,” he said after his victory speech. “And I knew that we laid it all out there, so if we lost I would be at peace with that.
"The fact that we won is just amazing, though.”
This will be Whipple’s first time serving in executive office. He was elected to the state Legislature as a Democrat in 2012; he is in the middle of his fourth term.
Whipple said his top priorities as mayor will be public safety and transparency.
“I think there’s a lot we can do to make sure that city hall is above par when it comes to restoring trust,” he said.
Longwell’s campaign for re-election was likely impacted by a Wichita Eagle article alleging he had steered a multi-million dollar project to design and build the city’s new water treatment facility toward friends on the Wichita Water Partners Team. The article detailed how Longwell had also socialized with members of the team during the bidding process.
The Eagle article came out in late September, well after Longwell had won the August primary by several percentage points over Whipple. The news became a focal point of Longwell’s opponents.
In his concession speech, Longwell said it was unfortunate to come out on the losing end of “a tough campaign.” He reflected on his 25 years in public office, including on the Maize School Board and Wichita City Council.
“The opportunity to serve this community [as mayor] for four and a half years, no one can take that away from us,” Longwell said.
He said he’s happy with the momentum in the city and wished Whipple the best.
“We want to see this community be successful, and we think it will be,” he said. “Certainly it’s going to be different.
“But we have a great city council that I have the ultimate respect for and comfort with, and one person isn’t going to change a lot.”
All three of the City Council incumbents seeking re-election won their races Tuesday.
Whipple will be sworn in as mayor in January. He said he plans to continue a lawsuit against the makers of a campaign video falsely accusing him of sexually harassing interns at the Statehouse.
“As long as we have the means to move forward, we will,” he said.
Wichita businessman Lyndy Wells’ brief campaign as a write-in candidate didn’t generate enough votes to overcome either Longwell or Whipple.