FactFinder 12 checks claims in mailer against Wichita mayoral candidate

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) A week out from the 2019 general local election candidates for Wichita mayor are ramping up for the final stretch.

The race to Election Day includes ads from outside groups, including a mailer recently sent to homes across Wichita. This mailer makes five claims about mayoral candidate Brandon Whipple's interaction with interns while he served Kansas as a state representative. These claims are based on a story that appeared in Wichita State's student newspaper, The Sunflower, about two years ago.

Sunflower Managing Editor Matthew Kelley wrote the article on which the mailer, sent to home in Wichita, claims to pull its information.

In the article, Kelly reports about state lawmakers and their use of interns as designated drivers. The mailer claims Whipple was one of the primary culprits using female interns to drive while he was out drinking. In the actual article, there is no mention of the gender of those interns.

The mailer also attributes to the article that Whipple had more than one female intern act as a designated driver.

"Based on my reporting, it was at least one male intern and one female intern had been specifically solicited by Whipple to drive he and other lawmakers around the capital.

There's a purported direct quote from the article that "Whipple more than once joked about if she was even old enough to drink with him."

The actual quote refers to whether the intern is old enough to drink period, not drink with Whipple as written on the mailer.

"It does kind of change the context just a little bit," Kelley says. "Specifically getting a drink with him versus just having a drink in a social setting. The insinuation was a little bit more direct there."

So, who's behind the mailer? We may never know. The group listed as paying for the mailer does not have to register with the state because it doesn't ask you to vote for or against any particular candidate.

Whipple says attacks like the mailer and a recent YouTube video Eyewitness News reported on are coming from fake organizations painting an inaccurate picture that he trusts Wichita voters will see through. The general election is set for Nov. 5.

Whipple and current Wichita mayor Jeff Longwell appear on the ballot. Local businessman Lindy Wells has a write-in campaign, encouraging voters to write his name on their ballots instead of voting for either Whipple or Longwell.