Regent hopes to recruit Lyndon Wells for mayoral write-in campaign

Lyndon+%22Lyndy%22+Wells%2C+a+WSU+Tech+board+member%2C+finished+in+third+place+in+the+Aug.+6+mayoral+primary.+Now%2C+some+supporters+are+calling+for+him+to+return+as+a+write-in+candidate+in+the+Nov.+5+general+election.+

Audrey Korte

Lyndon "Lyndy" Wells, a WSU Tech board member, finished in third place in the Aug. 6 mayoral primary. Now, some supporters are calling for him to return as a write-in candidate in the Nov. 5 general election.

Kansas Regent Jon Rolph, a restaurateur by trade, is calling for former mayoral candidate Lyndon Wells to launch a write-in campaign for the Nov. 5 general election. 

Candidates on the ballot are Mayor Jeff Longwell and challenging state Rep. Brandon Whipple

Rolph, president and CEO of Thrive Restaurant Group, said he was compelled to launch the write-in effort after a Wichita Eagle investigation said Longwell steered the city’s contract for a new water treatment plant toward friends. 

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Rolph

“I have just been appalled, like a lot of people, with . . . the decisions around our water,” Rolph said. “And even more disturbed by [Longwell’s] apathetic response to the assertion that he has damaged public trust.”

Wells has not yet decided whether he will join the write-in effort.

“There are some folks trying [to start a write-in], I’m not there yet,” Wells told the Wichita Eagle Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Rolph and former mayors Bob Knight and Carl Brewer recorded a TV advertisement urging Wells to re-enter the race. Rolph spent around $9,000 to air the ad across three Wichita stations, starting Thursday.  

“We need a trusted leader with integrity . . .” Brewer said.

“ . . . to tackle the issues around drinking water and economic development,” Knight said.

The ad directs viewers to a website called www.writeinwells.com

Wells is expected to make a decision before early ballots go out next Wednesday. 

Since the Eagle’s investigation into Longwell was published last month, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett has launched his own investigation into the circumstances surrounding the report. 

Rolph said he believes Longwell should have been more open about his ties to developers at Wichita Water Partners. 

“I don’t know if he broke any laws the DA can figure that out but ethically, the mayor should have disclosed those relationships,” Rolph said. 

Longwell has maintained his conduct was not out-of-line with the responsibilities of the mayor. He could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Wells, chair of the WSU Tech Industry Advisory Board, finished in third place in the Aug. 6 mayoral primary just 297 votes behind second-place Whipple. 

In the lead-up to the primary election, Wells campaigned on his leadership experience, including with INTRUST Bank. A week before the primary, Wells misused WSU and WSU Tech logos in a campaign mailer. 

The Sunflower could not immediately reach Wells for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Rolph said he prefers Wells over Whipple because he doesn’t feel Whipple a longtime legislator in the Kansas House has the proper track record to be the next mayor. 

“I believe that [Whipple] doesn’t have a rich enough set of experiences to pull from to lead us through the complex problems that are in front of us,” Rolph said. 

Whipple responded to the potential write-in campaign in an email to The Sunflower.

“Wichita needs a mayor with real governing experience who is ready on day one to take on the job of restoring trust in City Hall, prioritizing public safety, and accelerating our economic momentum,” he said.

Heading toward November, Whipple said he wants to stay focused on addressing issues like the city’s water system.

“The voters already have a clear choice this November,” Whipple said. “I plan to stay focused on my positive vision for the future of Wichita.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly appointed Rolph to KBOR in July, along with Shellaine Kiblinger and Cheryl Harrison-Lee. The three regents’ terms expire in June 2023.