‘Those 3 stooges probably cost me the election:’ Former Wichita mayor weighs in on attack ad revelations

Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 1:21 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update Monday evening, Oct. 26, 2020: The attorney for Michael O’Donnell on Monday evening issued a response to the allegations against his client. In the formal legal response to the lawsuit from Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, O’Donnell denies direct involvement in the ad and calls for a jury trial to settle the matter.

The response claims, in part, “This suit was filed against this defendant with the principle objective of effecting the results of the Sedgwick County Commission, Second District election.”

On Nov. 3, incumbent O’Donnell faces a challenger in Sarah Lopez in the race to represent the county’s second district.

Update Monday afternoon, Oct. 26, 2020: Wichita City Council member James Clendenin released a statement in which he denies involvement in the creation of the false attack ad against Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple. Clendenin said as this is a pending legal matter (now involving an investigation from Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett), he “won’t be able to make expansive comments for now.” However, he included five points that he said he wants to make clear:

“I am proud of the many years of honorable service I’ve been fortunate to provide for the residents of Wichita and particularly District 3,” Clendenin said. “I should not have attended the meeting that has become widely discussed and frequently misunderstood. When publicly questioned about that person’s potential involvement, I did not lie and instead stated I had no knowledge if he did. I never, at any level, had any involvement in the scripting, directing, editing, or distribution of the television ad in question. Nor did I even know of its existence until after it was produced. I look forward to honorably completing my term in office as the City Councilmember representing District 3."

Clendenin clarified that “that person” mentioned in his statement is Sedgwick County Republican Party Chair Dalton Glasscock whom Clendenin, Capps and O’Donnell are accused of attempting to blame for the attack ad against Whipple.

“I anxiously look forward to being able to fully, completely discuss this matter and my involvement in it as it works through the legal process,” Clendenin said.

Former Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell responded to information revealed in a secretly recorded meeting by saying, “Those three stooges probably cost me the election.”

The response comes after the man who made a false attack ad aimed at, then mayoral candidate, Brandon Whipple during the 2019 Wichita Mayoral race released the entire audio from a meeting between Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, Wichita City Council member James Clendenin and State Representative Michael Capps.

During the nearly hour long meeting, the three discuss how they will handle the fallout from the false attack ad and how they will shift blame from themselves onto Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Dalton Glassock and County Clerk Kelly Arnold.

Reached for comment on the information Factfinder 12 uncovered and reported first last week, Longwell said he believed O’Donnell, Clendenin and Capps were probably the reason he was defeated by Brandon Whipple and he believed they should now step down from their elected positions.

“They should apologize and resign,” Longwell said. “They hurt a lot of people, including myself.”

The former Wichita mayor’s response comes on the heels of other calls for resignation made over the weekend.

On Saturday, the Sedgwick County Republican Party called for the resignations of “those involved in this video ad campaign," and called out the three men caught on the audio recording discussing how to pass the blame for that ad.

The statement read, in part, “This week’s events bring to a head the malicious and dishonest actions of Michael Capps, Michael O’Donnell, and James Clendenin over the past year. We have stated from the beginning that this type of politics and actions would not be supported by the Sedgwick County Republican Party.”

Three of Michael O’Donnell’s fellow Sedgwick County Commissioners have publicly commented on the actions documented in the secretly recorded meeting. Commissioner Lacey Cruse took to her Facebook page saying, “Michael O’Donnell has proven to be a risk and major liability to Sedgwick County and should not be in a position where he can make decisions on behalf of 500,000+ people.”

Commissioner David Dennis wrote on his Facebook page, “I join the Sedgwick County Republican party in calling for Michael O’Donnell and those involved in the video ad to resign. It is vital that citizens have trust in their elected officials, and the recording demonstrates a clear breach of honesty and the values that we as Commissioners swore to adhere to.”

Dennis added he was looking into the legal options the county had to “take quick action because of the severity of the issue.”

Commissioner Jim Howell went a step further in his comments, calling for the resignation of all three men involved. “Michael O’Donnell, Michael Capps and James Clendenin should all immediately resign from their respective elected positions,” Howell wrote. “The people of Sedgwick County deserve representation that is ethical, above reproach, and honest. The actions of these men in the “Protect Wichita Girls” scandal is reprehensible and embarrassing to our community.”

Howell posted an image of a page from the County Commissioner Code of Ethics showing Principle 1 as being “vigorously dedicated to the democratic ideals of honesty, openness and accountability in all public matters.”

Howell tells Facfinder 12 he would meet with county counsel on Monday to discuss legal options and would be contact us after with an update.

Michael Capps, Michael O’Donnell and James Clendenin did not respond to calls or messages for comment on Monday.

You can listen to the complete audio from that secretly recorded meeting here.

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