Voter interest expected to be higher this year for city mayoral race

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We are now less than a month away from the general election. One political analyst says the mayoral race is heating up.

And more interest could mean a higher voter turnout.

“Historically city elections in the spring always draw a smaller (numbers) than November. That’s part of the reason why legislators moved the elections to the fall,” said KSN political analyst Jeff Jarman. “This is definitely a competitive race for mayor right now.”

And Jarman says that may get more voters out than in the last municipal election cycle of 2017 where 8.3-percent of registered voters in Sedgwick county cast their vote.

One wild card that could gather more interest is Lyndy Wells. Wells lost in the primary to Brandon Whipple who is now facing off with Mayor Jeff Longwell.

“We have an incumbent where there is controversy, we have one challenger with significant experience in the legislature, and now probably another challenger who was competitive in the primary,” said Jarman.

Wells has not officially declared himself a candidate for the general election. But a friend of Wells is now running television ads this week asking people to write-in Wells.

Jarman says another wild card that could raise the interest level is candidate forums or debates.

KPTS Channel 8, Wichita’s public television station, is holding a one hour show on the 24th of this month. The show will have Mayor Jeff Longwell for half an hour and challenger Brandon Whipple for half an hour.

“And if we don’t do this, the voters may not get all the information they need,” said KPTS President and CEO Victor Hogstrom. “This is not a debate. This is an opportunity again for the candidates to just simply present their views and their positions on issues. “

Jarman says it will be interesting to see if a write-in candidate will be allowed on the show or any upcoming debate or forum.

Hogstrom said it’s possible. He says it would have to be a qualified candidate who has declared and, preferably, one who made a serious run in the primary.

“But if there is a person who is definitely running as a write-in, KPTS is obligated to provide them the equal access opportunity to that person,” said Hogstrom.

Jarman said it will be up to voters to decide if they will get out to the polls.

“Interest in this race just seems to be growing, and not just on social media,” said Jarman. “Voter turnout can be a tricky thing.”

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