The filing deadline for candidates is January 25, 2011 at noon. The primary election is on March 1, and the general election is April 5.
These elections are non-partisan, meaning that candidates don’t run as members of a political party. Instead, the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election.
The election calendar is a problem. Kansans presently have their political attention focused on our August primary, in which there are many hotly-contested battles. After that comes the November general election, which is likely to feature several races that generate intense interest and participation. Then comes the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, when few want to think about politics.
Right after that is the filing deadline for city elections, and then quickly, the primary and general elections. It’s a schedule designed for incumbents.
In Wichita, there are three city council positions and the mayorship that are up for election. In district two, (click here for a map of districts), which is primarily the east side of Wichita, incumbent council member Sue Schlapp can’t run again because of the law limiting council members and the mayor to two four-year terms.
In district four — south and southwest Wichita — Paul Gray has also served two terms and can’t run again.
In district five — west and northwest Wichita — incumbent council member and Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell is in his first term and can run again if he chooses. He hasn’t revealed his plans publicly.
Mayor Carl Brewer is also in his first term and can run again. I’ve not heard him reveal his plans.
So far three candidates have publicly declared their intent to run. Former Executive Director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party Jason Dilts has been actively running for the fourth district position for several months.
In April securities broker and tea party activist Lynda Tyler announced her intent to run in district five against Longwell.
Last week Galichia Heart Hospital CEO Steve Harris threw his hat in the ring for city council district two.
There are others — well-known and not — that are considering running.
Expect these issues to dominate the campaigns: First, downtown development — especially how to pay for it — is likely to be a dominant topic, as the Goody Clancy final plan is scheduled to be completed this fall. We can expect tremendous amounts of campaign funds to be directed to those candidates who favor taxpayer support and subsidy for politically-favored developers.
As many Wichita political and civic leaders speak admiringly of the city sales tax that has funded downtown redevelopment in Oklahoma City, we might even see a sales tax question on the primary or general election ballot.
The issue of taxpayer-funded economic development — whether downtown or elsewhere — may receive discussion too. Both Longwell and Brewer believe that Wichita doesn’t have enough “tools in the toolbox” for dishing out subsidy and tax breaks.
Water is likely to be an issue too, as Wichita’s water rates are going up.