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Archive for Thursday, January 23, 2003

Wichita mayor’s race draws 15

January 23, 2003

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— A laid-off aviation worker. A movie theater mogul. A hotel desk clerk.

They are among the 15 candidates who have filed to run for mayor of Wichita. The 15 candidates are the most since 1989, when Wichitans first began electing their mayor citywide. Sixteen people filed that year.

The field will be narrowed to two in the Feb. 25 primary election. The finalists will meet in the April 1 general election.

Mayor Bob Knight, who is prohibited by term limits from running again, said that although some candidates were better known than others, you could not dismiss unfamiliar names.

"Nobody gave me a chance to win 24 years ago," Knight said.

Candidates cite various reasons for running, but all say they want to lead a city government that will help the local economy overcome the aviation layoffs since the terrorist attacks.

Carlos Mayans, a former state legislator, said citizens had disconnected with a city government that didn't listen to them, which partly explains the large field of candidates.

"It reflects how discouraged people are with how things are moving along right now," Mayans said. "I think people feel that they can do a better job than what has been done."

Martin Mork, a laid-off aviation worker running for mayor, wants the city to take a leading role in attracting Boeing's chief competitor, Airbus SAS. He also wants to attract a Walt Disney-type amusement park.

"I'm encouraged to see so much interest because this is an important election," said Bill Gale, a mayoral candidate and two-time City Council member. "These are tough budgetary times. I'm glad to see that hasn't scared candidates off."

Bill Warren, the local theater owner whom Knight has endorsed, is convinced the next mayor needs to be a business owner who has proven he can put people to work.

"Have you ever known a politician who has ever made any jobs?" Warren asked.

Other candidates advocate a cautious city government approach that focuses on funding basic services during a weak economy.

One is Kenneth Kindler, a retired real estate investor, who said he would donate the mayor's nearly $70,000 annual salary to distressed people.

Michael Esparza, a chiropractor and mayoral candidate, said his top issue was establishing strong ties between city government and the citizens it serves.

"My message is very simple," he said. "I'm trying to bring City Hall back to the community and invite the community back to City Hall."

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