Incumbent Mayor David Alvey will face former deputy police chief Tyrone Garner in November for leadership of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, according to final unofficial results Tuesday.
Garner, who retired from the Kansas City, Kansas department in 2019, and Alvey were the top two vote-getters in a five-member primary field and will move on to the general election.
Garner narrowly led with 3,465 votes, followed by Alvey with 3,405. They defeated former state senator Chris Steineger (2,649) activist Janice Witt (1,762) and newcomer Daran Duffy (963).
The primary results signal a fall contest likely to be focused on management of the police department, voter unhappiness with high taxes and high bills from the Board of Public Utilities as Garner makes his case for unseating Alvey.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Garner said Tuesday evening. “We want to continue fighting for those who want lower BPU bills, they want lower taxes.”
Alvey, who ousted first-term incumbent Mark Holland in 2019, is seeking a second term after his first years in office were interrupted by COVID-19. He places the city’s response to the pandemic high on his list of accomplishments. Despite early outbreaks of COVID-19, Wyandotte County was able to bring infection rates down quicker than neighboring counties.
In addition to his COVID-19 response, Alvey pointed to his record of attracting employers to the county, including the distribution center for Urban Outfitters near the Kansas Speedway.
Alvey entered the primary with more money than any candidate — $28,215 through July 22. Key support came from affiliates of Sporting KC and Cerner Corp, real estate developer Hunter Harris, KCK attorney RIck Rehorn, former mayor Carol Marinovich and the Polsinelli Law Firm.
But Alvey also attracted four challengers who attacked him for high tax and utility rates as well as sweetheart deals for big businesses. On Tuesday, more than 70% of the vote went to those candidates.
Amid allegations of abuse by the Kansas City, Kansas, police department and high tax and utility burdens, Alvey’s opponents said the Unified Government is in need of change.
Garner pledged to seek a Department of Justice investigation of alleged abuse by Kansas City, Kansas police. He told The Star last month he would seek to negotiate better deals with companies interested in relocating to KCK.
He said he would work to gradually reduce PILOT payments (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) that are added to individual utility bills for funding the UG government. They have increased from 5% in 1988 to 11.9% today. Garner also said he would support a residency requirement for Unified Government workers.
Alvey has said any reduction in the PILOT tax would harm the UG’s ability to provide services to residents. Even a 1% cut, he said, would drop 3.4 million from the budget.
The other challengers sounded similar themes, but couldn’t convince voters they were the best choice for taking on Alvey.
Each pitched plans for new approaches to future business incentives, adjusting the tax burden, and reorganizing the Board of Public Utilities.
Steineger, the former senator, based his campaign on lowering the tax burden in Wyandotte County. He says the UG’s involvement in economic development has resulted in too many failed projects. To increase efficiency, he said, the Board of Public Utilities should be merged into the Unified Government.
Witt, a longtime KCK activist, pitched herself as the outsider who could root out corruption in city hall.
She advocated supporting existing businesses rather than rewarding new companies with tax incentives and said county tax dollars have been disproportionately funneled towards high income parts of KCK like the Legends.
Duffy has described himself as a conservative Christian running to represent those concerned about the tax burden and who feel ignored by city hall. The Board of Public Utilities, he said, needs to be independently audited.