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Politics, Elections and Government

Voter Guide: What To Know About The Kansas City, Kansas, Mayoral Primary Election

072321_cm_Voting
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Poll workers stand by waiting for voters to cast their ballots during absentee voting at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center. Oct. 14, 2020.

Incumbent Mayor David Alvey faces a challenge from four opponents. The top two vote-getters on Aug. 3 will move on to the Nov. 2 general election.

In 2017, David Alvey surprised many people by defeating incumbent Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Mark Holland to become the Unified Government’s new political leader.

Now, Alvey faces his own re-election challenge from four opponents. The primary is Aug. 3 and the top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Key issues confronting the candidates are tax relief, development in older neighborhoods, public safety, and immigration enforcement.

The Election

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on Aug. 3.

A Photo ID is required. There are no COVID restrictions or mask mandates for in-person voting.

Information about polling places and voter information is available here.

People may submit an application to vote by mail until July 27, with more information here.

In-person advance voting is available at various locations, with more information here.

The Candidates

072321_cm_MayorAlvey
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
In 2017, David Alvey defeated incumbent Mayor Mark Holland to become the Unified Government’s new political leader. Prior to his election, Alvey served eight years on the Board of Public Utilities and as a Rockhurst High School administrator.

David Alvey: Prior to his election, Alvey served eight years on the Board of Public Utilities and as a Rockhurst High School administrator. In 2017, his campaign got a boost from the Wyandotte County firefighters, who opposed Holland. But this year, the firefighters are endorsing Garner because Alvey supported an outsider for new fire chief.

Alvey says his accomplishments include effective public health strategies during the pandemic, proactively addressing policing reform after George Floyd’s murder, and economic development progress. His top priority is continued development, especially in the northeast part of the county, to broaden the county’s tax base.

072321_cm_MayorGarner
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Tyrone Garner joined the KCK police department in 1987 and rose through the ranks to retire as deputy chief in June 2019.

Tyrone Garner: Garner joined the KCK police department in 1987 and rose through the ranks to retire as deputy chief in June 2019. He says he would bring that police experience to county government and provide more engaged and inclusive leadership.

His platform includes tax relief, an audit of government and BPU to streamline operations, reforming public safety including supporting the District Attorney’s community integrity unit, and more equitable development and investment, especially in the county’s eastern side.

072321_cm_MayorWitt
Courtesy Janice Witt
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Janice Witt has operated a food pantry and help center in Wyandotte County for many years. Witt also ran for mayor in 2017.

Janice Witt: Witt, who also ran for mayor in 2017, has operated a food pantry and help center in Wyandotte County for many years. In 2018, she and her husband sued Unified Government over a lake house lease deal that then-Police Chief Terry Zeigler had with the county. Zeigler retired in 2019.

Witt says her campaign priorities including reducing taxes and BPU fees, and improving transparency and trust in government, including replacing Unified Government Administrator Doug Bach.

072321_cm_MayorSteineger
Courtesy Chris Steineger
Steineger represented Wyandotte County in the Kansas Senate for 16 years, first as a Democrat and later as a Republican.

Chris Steineger: Steineger represented Wyandotte County in the Kansas Senate for 16 years, first as a Democrat and later as a Republican. After he left the legislature in 2013, he taught in Germany and then became a real estate investor, turning an abandoned school in Wyandotte County into senior housing.

His priorities include lowering taxes and utility costs, curbing tax breaks for large corporations and fighting crime.

072321_cm_MayorDuffy
Courtesy Daran Duffy
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Daran Duffy is a truck driver who describes himself as a “Biblical Conservative” and a “homeschool dad.” He is a first-time candidate who moved to Wyandotte County a few years ago from Merriam, Kansas.

Daran Duffy: Duffy is a first-time candidate who moved to Wyandotte County a few years ago from Merriam, Kansas. He is a truck driver who describes himself as a “Biblical Conservative” and a “homeschool dad.”

His priorities include lowering property taxes, an independent audit of the BPU, and more services for residents rather than new tourist attractions.

Issue: Development and investment in the east side

Alvey says there’s been a lot of progress in his first term, citing projects such as the Merc downtown grocery store, senior housing in a former YMCA building, new lofts at 8th and Washington, new ownership at the Monarchs baseball stadium, and plans for an Urban Outfitters distribution center near the Kansas Speedway and for a Menards at I-35 and 18th Street.

Alvey's second-term priority would be continued economic development, especially in the northeast part of the city. He said the government is working to attract new investors and has numerous strategies to help rehabbers fix up several thousand Land Bank properties.

Garner said better leadership is needed to address decades of disinvestment, especially east of I-635. He said he would oppose most tax incentives for big box stores and concentrate on improving neighborhoods and encouraging small businesses. He said the Latino community has shown that small businesses can successfully anchor residential areas.

Garner would look to reduce onerous fees, streamline the development process, seek solutions to food deserts and provide homeless shelters to move people out of poverty.

Witt also opposes tax abatements for big developments and says they often don’t work, recalling the example of a $3 million incentive granted to Backfire BBQ, which failed after a few years in the Legends. She said Wyandotte County leaders have failed to promote equitable development and attention to neighborhoods.

Witt said she would work hard to address poverty and neglect and to support small businesses, especially in the urban core and northeast area.

Steineger and Duffy did not provide answers.

Issue: High taxes and utility costs

Alvey said the mill levy was reduced in 2018, and if taxes are cut too precipitously it would result in curtailed services. Instead, Alvey wants to broaden the tax base by encouraging more development throughout the county. He disagreed with critics who say Board of Public Utility’s fees are too high and said outside studies have shown it is a well-run utility.

Garner said he will push for independent audits of county government and the BPU to find efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars. He wants to reduce or eliminate excess taxes within the utility bills and stop corporate exemptions or exceptions from utility payments.

Witt agreed BPU costs to residents and especially to small businesses are overly burdensome and deter new economic development to the county. She said she thought executive salaries at the BPU were excessive and needed to be addressed.

Steineger and Duffy did not provide answers.

Issue: Policing

Alvey said that after George Floyd’s murder, a Wyandotte County task force studied policing and found the county had already banned choke holds, had safeguards against excessive force and provided conflict resolution and de-escalation training. The task force advocated for restorative justice, more community policing and a full rollout of body cameras. Alvey said he supports the newly-appointed police chief, Karl Oakman, and any reforms Oakman may recommend.

Garner said he fully supports Oakman and the new police chief’s plans for a culture shift in the department. He said he supports the District Attorney’s conviction integrity unit and believes any allegations of misconduct by officers or the department must be investigated by outside agencies.

Witt said she thinks the police department is overfunded and has too many administrators. She was also concerned about allegations that firefighters were paid for work they did not do through a process called shift trading. “We’ve got too much money going to safety and too much power in the hands of safety, and too many people who do not feel safe,” she said.

Steineger and Duffy did not provide answers.

Issue: Immigration enforcement

Wyandotte County’s population is about one-third white, one-third Black and one-third Latino.

A coalition is pushing for a municipal ID for access to services and for an ordinance prohibiting the police department from collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforement (ICE).

Garner and Witt said they support this initiative and would work to see it implemented.

Alvey said he’s amenable to an ID but said in most cases it’s not necessary. He said KCK police don’t do enforcement for ICE anyway, but a non-cooperation ordinance could jeopardize Department of Justice grants the Unified Government receives.

Steineger and Duffy did not provide answers.

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