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Politics, Elections and Government

Wyandotte County District Attorney Dupree Easily Retains Seat After Heated Campaign

Dupree (2).jpg
Dupree Campaign
Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree watched election returns with a small group of family and friends.

After a contentious contest that called into question his leadership and ability to preserve public safety, Dupree beat his challenger Kristiane Bryant by 10 points.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, 38, held a steady lead throughout the night and in the end, bested his opponent by 10 points to win a second term as Wyandotte County District Attorney.

"The people of Wyandotte County said enough is enough and they want to continue to progress," he said. "It's a tough road, but the citizens of this county said we didn't get where we are within a year or two, it takes time to better a criminal justice system and I believe they're in for the long haul."

Dupree, a pastor at Grace Tabernacle Family Outreach Center in Kansas City, Kansas, said he ran four years ago because the Lord told him to, and that’s why he ran this year to keep the job.

“I believe when God calls you, then God qualifies you and sets you up for that job,” he said. “This is not my fight, its God’s fight.”

Dupree's challenger was prosecutor Kristiane Bryant. She spent seven years in the Wyandotte County district attorney's office and several years in the criminal litigation unit in the office of the Kansas attorney general. Bryant currently works with the violent crimes unit of the Jackson County prosecutor's office.

“It was a difficult campaign season with COVID,” Bryant said, “Also, there are obviously people who think the current district attorney is doing a good job. That’s fair. That’s why the voters decide.”

Courtesy Bryant campaign
Kristiane Bryant waited out election returns with volunteers at Breit's Stein & Deli in Kansas City, Kansas. She says she hopes Dupree will address some of the issues that her campaign raised about prosecutorial rigor and leadership.

A contentious campaign

The hard-fought campaign highlighted issues of public safety in an era of rising violent crime.

With months of protests over strained relations between law enforcement and communities of color, diversity and how well the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office reflects its constituents also became an issue.

“We are one of the most diverse communities in the country, ethnically and racially, but our district attorney’s office never represented that,” said Dupree, who is Black. “The fact that this community has a distrust with law enforcement and the criminal justice system is greatly due to that lack of representation.”

Dupree claimed a “good old boy” network led to favoritism, prejudicial justice and a lack of cultural sensitivity during the years Bryant was a deputy DA in Wyandotte County. He points to the wrongful conviction of Lamonte McIntyre, a Black man who spent 23 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit.

Dupree cites his role in overturning McIntrye’s conviction as an example of his success bringing more progressive policies to the office. He further cites the establishment of a drug court, behavioral health court and mental health diversion program among his accomplishments.

But Bryant accused Dupree of running an office where too many cases received lenient plea deals, where the outcome of criminal trials were inconsistent and where there was a significant lack of courtroom experience in criminal prosecution.

“It’s like the medical field,” she said. “There’s a big difference between a dermatologist and a cardiologist. The legal field is not that far off. Just having years (of trial experience) doesn’t qualify you to handle high-level criminal prosecution.”

Bryant said she decided to challenge Dupree because she believes people in Wyandotte County do not feel safe.

“There are a couple of different meanings to safety,” she told Steve Kraske on KCUR's UpTo Date. “Our residents should feel safe from violence when carrying on day to day activities, and they should also not live in fear of falling victim to the legal system.”

What happens next?

Declaring victory via Facebook Live, Dupree said he had heard the criticism and will obey scripture to love mercy and walk humbly before God.

"Where there is credible criticism, we will work on that," he said. "I made an appeal not only to attorneys but to law enforcement of all agencies that we all come together and work to figure out how to fix problems and to make public safety better for all of Wyandotte County."

Both candidates chuckled and sighed in relief when asked how they'd begin the day after the end of the campaign. Both have young children and said their immediate plans were to spend time with their families, of whom they have not seen much during the grueling 18-month contest.

After that, Dupree said he will do a thorough review of policies and practices. “We will recalibrate, adjust, fix where we can and learn from our mistakes and move forward.”

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