State Rep. Brandon Whipple set to challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in November

Riding off a successful primary, how will the Democrat from New Hampshire fare in the general election?

Brandon+Whipple%2C+a+2019+candidate+for+mayor+of+Wichita%2C+celebrates+Aug.+6+at+his+primary+election+watch+party.+He+will+challenge+Mayor+Jeff+Longwell+in+the+November+general+election.+
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State Rep. Brandon Whipple set to challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in November

Brandon Whipple, a 2019 candidate for mayor of Wichita, celebrates Aug. 6 at his primary election watch party. He will challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in the November general election.

Brandon Whipple, a 2019 candidate for mayor of Wichita, celebrates Aug. 6 at his primary election watch party. He will challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in the November general election.

COURTESY/KEVIN BENAVIDES, KMUW

Brandon Whipple, a 2019 candidate for mayor of Wichita, celebrates Aug. 6 at his primary election watch party. He will challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in the November general election.

COURTESY/KEVIN BENAVIDES, KMUW

COURTESY/KEVIN BENAVIDES, KMUW

Brandon Whipple, a 2019 candidate for mayor of Wichita, celebrates Aug. 6 at his primary election watch party. He will challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in the November general election.

Kansas Rep. Brandon Whipple, a Wichita State alumnus and adjunct professor, will challenge Mayor Jeff Longwell in the November general election for mayor of Wichita.

Unofficial election results say Longwell finished first in Tuesday’s primary election, with about 32% of the vote. Whipple came in second with 26.2% of the vote, just 234 votes more than WSU Tech Board chair Lyndon Wells.

Whipple, 37, credited his campaign and volunteers for his advancement to the general election.

“If it wasn’t for you, with this razor-thin margin, we would not be moving on,” Whipple said in a Facebook video on his official campaign page. “And there wouldn’t be a Democrat on the ballot in November for mayor of Wichita.” 

Shocker alumnus Whipple has represented District 96 in the Kansas House of Representatives since unseating Republican Rick Lindsey in 2012. 

While Wichita’s mayoral office is nonpartisan, Whipple — former chair of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party — has touted his partisan status throughout his campaign. In an earlier interview with The Sunflower, he said he thought it could help him win the city’s vote.

COURTESY/CITY OF WICHITA
Longwell

Whipple’s opponent, Longwell, has campaigned on his track record of development in Wichita, and his successful efforts to bring a Minor League Baseball team and stadium to the city. He’s expressed confidence that he can earn another term as mayor.

“I’m humbled to move on to the general election,” Longwell said in a post on his official Facebook page. “I look forward to [continuing] to work for Wichita during this next leg of the election.” 

Campaign finance reports filed in July say Longwell has raised nearly $89,000 since Jan. 1. That’s more than three times the $25,000 raised by Whipple. 

Critics of Longwell say his administration has not been transparent enough when making large decisions on behalf of the city. In a video published by The Wichita Eagle, he refers to them as “communication issues.”

“The beauty is no one’s ever knocked us on the outcomes,” Longwell said. “They’ve only focused on some communications issues that we’re going to do a better job of.” 

In his campaign for mayor, Whipple has frequently criticized current city leaders as “insiders.” If elected, he said he would prioritize public input and education. 

“Wichita’s biggest export is not wheat or airplanes — it’s educated young people,” he said. 

Whipple, a New Hampshire native, first traveled to Wichita when he was 21 for a year-long mission with AmeriCorps, in which he worked with at-risk youth at Wichita High School South. 

“I fell in love with Wichita and discovered I could afford to attend college at Wichita State University,” he said. “As a first-generation college student, I saw the great potential Wichita offered me.”

Whipple graduated from WSU with his bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in psychology. He later earned his master’s degree in liberal studies from WSU, with an emphasis on cross-cultural studies and public administration. 

Finally, Whipple’s doctorate in leadership studies comes from Franklin Pierce University, a private college in his home state. 

As a ranking member of the Higher Education Budget Committee, Whipple prioritized restoring money to higher education. He said this could be done with an agreement that universities would not increase tuition. 

During the 2016 session, Whipple was accused of using student interns as designated drivers in Topeka. Wichita State, after these allegations were reported by The Sunflower, said the accusation did not warrant an investigation.

What are the odds? 

Professor Neal Allen, chair of the WSU Political Science Department, says the general election could be competitive if Whipple plays his cards right. 

“But [Longwell] starts as the favorite,” he said. 

In order to win, Allen said Whipple would need to unite his own party’s base, as well as appeal to Republican and Independent voters who are dissatisfied with the current mayor. 

With a group of Wells voters now without a candidate, Allen says it’s unclear who they’ll turn to in November. 

“Wells’ message was similar to Whipple’s, but his donor base and biography are similar to Longwell’s,” he said. 

Primary election results will be finalized after canvassing Thursday. More than 500 provisional ballots will be evaluated by county canvassers, who will decide which ones to accept based on state law. The ballots are unlikely to sway results. 

Over 23,000 ballots were cast in the primary election, representing 10% of registered voters in Sedgwick County. View the full primary election results here

EDITOR’s NOTE: Story updated to include more background on Brandon Whipple from a previously published story.