Wichita City Councilman Bryan Frye will challenge Brandon Whipple and a wide field of candidates in the 2023 mayoral election.
“Wichita can be the next leading city, full of vibrancy and possibility. And we will do it with the compassion, fairness, grit and foresight that has represented all neighborhoods,” Frye told supporters gathered for the start of his campaign at Soteria Technology Solutions, an IT company he co-founded in 2020.
Frye succeeded Jeff Longwell in the Northwest Wichita District 5 seat in 2015, the year Longwell was elected mayor. He cannot run again for the council seat due to term limits.
Longwell, who was defeated by Whipple in 2019, watched Frye’s announcement Thursday and said the two-term board member has his full support.
“I think he would make a fantastic mayor,” Longwell said.
“He’s done a great job wherever he’s been. He’s smart, he’s empathetic, he’s compassionate. I think you need all those traits and he cares deeply about Wichita.
About 60 people attended the event, including City Council members Becky Tuttle and Jeff Blubaugh and Sedgwick County Commissioner David Dennis.
“We are on the verge of some incredible opportunities with high-tech manufacturing, cybersecurity, healthcare and education. I don’t think Wichita’s future has ever been brighter,” Frye said.
“But I’m also worried about Wichita,” he continued. “Worried that there are too many people who don’t think the same way about our city as I do. Concerned that we are not acting fast enough on the things that matter and affect Wichitans every day.
Frye is also the senior director of investor relations for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business group that is influential in state politics. On Thursday he told a reporter that if he were elected mayor, he would give up that position.
“I don’t think a Wichita mayor can truly serve the citizens, their neighbors, if they have other employers they work for,” he said.
Before entering politics, Frye worked for 25 years in marketing for local television news.
His first run for city office was an unsuccessful bid for the District 5 seat in 2007, where he finished in fifth place behind a crowded field of candidates that included Longwell, Dennis, and Paul Tobia. In 2015 and 2019, he defeated Gary Bond, who filed for nomination this year, and Mike Magness.
Frye set the stage for a showdown with Whipple. Lui filed an ethics complaint in March 2022 alleging that the mayor exerted undue influence over the hiring process that made his former assistant campaign manager him mayor. Whipple denies the allegation and claims she was politically motivated.
He and Whipple have openly argued in board meetings over COVID-19 policies, the city budget, proposals to privatize the city’s golf system and Century II, decriminalizing marijuana, and an anti-discrimination ordinance.
Frye said Thursday he wants to keep his civil campaign.
“I’ve run both of my previous campaigns on the high road and I think that’s the way to do it,” Frye said. “I think that’s what voters want. They want authenticity. They are tired of negative things. They are tired of back and forth. I will compare how I am against my opponents, but I will not go down the drain.
Frye has been a vocal critic of former Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and his leadership team over a threatened lawsuit seeking $2.5 million and the resignation of City Manager Robert Layton.
Frye defended Layton against allegations that he worked to thwart Ramsay’s leadership, characterizing the litigation as “the definition of extortion” and calling on Deputy Chiefs Chet Pinkston and Jose Salcido to step down. They responded by adding Frye to the slander and retaliation complaint.
Advocate Bob Aldrich said he was confident Frye could restore the relationship between the Wichita Police Department and City Hall.
“There is conflict between our law enforcement and the mayor’s office and I think it’s wrong,” Aldrich said. “Especially in the present day, we must first of all protect our citizens. I think it’s time for a change.”
Frye also risks clashing with mayoral candidate Celeste Racette, founder of Save Century II. He has been an advocate for consideration of a $1 billion Riverfront Legacy master plan that involved tearing down the Century II and former downtown library buildings and replacing them with new structures. He and board member Brandon Johnson testified in Topeka against a bill introduced by Racette that would have required a binding public election before any decisions were made to tear down historic buildings.
Other candidates who have officially applied to apply are environmental specialist Julie Rose Stroud and IT professional Anthony Gallardo. Former city councilman Jared Cerullo plans to get his name on the ballot by collecting at least 100 signatures rather than paying $70 in filing fees.
Primary elections will be held on August 1, and Wichitanians will choose their next mayor on November 7.