WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Kansas State Representative Brandon Whipple moves even closer to home with his next move in local politics. Tuesday night, Wichita voters showed support for Whipple, giving him the nod to be the city's next mayor. Whipple takes the reins from current Mayor Jeff Longwell in January.
The election capped a hotly-contested race that featured some controversy. In the months leading up to the election, the first issue that elevated the discussion about the mayoral race was a contract for a new water-treatment plant and allegations that Longwell steered city leaders to award that contract to a group of friends.
The second concerned an attack ad that made false accusations against Whipple and resulted in his attorney filing a lawsuit for slander.
Longwell denied having any involvement in the ad, denouncing the video and those behind its creation.
Adding heat to the race was a high-profile write-in campaign from Wichita businessman Lyndy Wells. Wells lost a close race to appear on the ballot in the August primary, but as the general election approached, his name resurfaced in local political ads. Among those endorsing the write-in campaign were former Wichita mayors Carl Brewer and Bob Knight.
Unofficial results show Whipple winning the mayoral election with 22,256 votes, or 46 percent. Longwell followed with 17,127, or 36 percent. A little more than 8,500 voters preferred a write-in candidate.
Whipple, a father of three, received endorsements from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Firefighters Union. On his website, , he lists several key initiatives for leading Wichita. These include improving transportation, establishing a code of ethics and city ethics commission, ending no-bid contracts at City Hall, prohibiting gifts to city council members and publishing the city's checkbook online.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Whipple said the work is just beginning.
"It's about making sure Wichita's best days lie ahead," Whipple says. "The only way we get there is if we all work together. ...The city's future is bright, but it's going to take more than winning a campaign."
Though disappointed with Tuesday night's result, Longwell wished Whipple the best and voiced confidence the city will continue "moving in the right direction."
"We wish (Whipple) the best. We love this community and we want to see it be successful, and we think it will be," Longwell says. "(It) certainly is going to be different, but we have a great city council that I have the ultimate respect for and comfort with. One person isn't going to change a lot."