Lily Wu finished first, and incumbent Brandon Whipple finished second in the top two nonpartisan primary election for mayor of Wichita, Kansas, on Aug. 1. Wu and Whipple advanced to the Nov. 7 general election from a field of nine candidates.
Though the race was officially nonpartisan, Wu—a former Republican—is a Libertarian. Whipple is a Democrat who defeated incumbent Mayor Jeff Longwell (R) in 2019.
Wu was a reporter and news anchor for two Wichita-area television stations for 12 years and also served as a board member for three Wichita-area nonprofit organizations. At her campaign announcement, she said: “Restoring trust in city hall really has to do with a change in leadership. I think what we need right now is a leader and an ambassador, like I mentioned, that helps bring back the trust (between residents and city representatives).”
Whipple was a Democratic state legislator from 2013 to 2020. He said Wichita’s most pressing issue was improving public safety: “As Mayor, we must continue to build a safer city. This includes rebuilding trust, investing in programs that address youth violence, domestic violence, human trafficking, and embracing best practices for addressing mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.
The mayoral primary election in Wichita, Kansas, encapsulates the evolving nature of local politics and the diverse paths candidates are taking to address their communities’ needs. The contrasting profiles of Lily Wu and incumbent Brandon Whipple highlight the fluidity of party affiliations and the importance of individual stances in nonpartisan races. Wu’s transition from a Republican to a Libertarian underscores the complexities of political identity, while Whipple’s Democratic background and legislative experience reflect a commitment to addressing pressing issues like public safety. This contest showcases how mayoral elections can transcend party lines and prioritize specific agendas.
Furthermore, the focus on trust-building by Wu and public safety by Whipple illustrates the multifaceted challenges cities face, from restoring confidence in local governance to ensuring the well-being of their residents. Their differing strategies mirror a broader trend across major U.S. cities, where Democrats have been gaining ground in mayoral offices. As these races unfold, they shed light on citizens’ shifting priorities and how candidates adapt to meet these concerns.
Ultimately, the Wichita mayoral election offers a microcosm of the diverse narratives playing out in local politics nationwide. The outcome will not only shape the city’s trajectory but also provide insights into the evolving dynamics of governance, the role of independent perspectives, and the growing impact of party-affiliated candidates in nonpartisan contests.
As of June 2023, Democrats held 62 of the mayoral offices in the 100 largest cities in the United States, Republicans held 26, independents held three, and nonpartisan mayors held seven. Two mayors’ partisan affiliations were unknown.
Produced in association with Ballotpedia
Edited by Suparba Sil