For the first time in 30 years, Wyandotte County voters rejected an incumbent mayor. David Alvey, a private school administrator and the director of the Wyandotte Unified Government Board of Public Utilities, ousted Mayor Mark Holland.
Long a Democratic stronghold, the shakeup suggests voters are tired of the status quo, according to Chris Steineger. Steineger represented Wyandotte County in the state Senate from 1997 through 2013. The one-time Democrat switched parties to become a Republican in 2010.
Municipal elections are non-partisan, but both Alvey and Holland have ties to the Democratic Party.
“Either way, we still have a dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, tax and spend Democrats in charge of Wyandotte County,” Steineger says. “I predict not a whole lot is going to change in our government.”
Still, pundits and press, including the Kansas City Star, consider the outcome an upset. Steineger says the race might reflect a tiny move right. Taxation was an issue during the campaign. The Alvey campaign criticized Holland for not reducing property taxes enough when property values increased.
“The assessed value of the county went up, but instead of lowering property taxes by the same amount, they kept some of the increase and only gave residents a tiny cut,” Steineger says.
Voters also took issue with Holland’s security detail. The Wyandotte County Mayor is one of the few city officials in the Midwest with a private security detail comprised of two, full-time police officers in plainclothes serving as personal security.
“That rubbed people wrong,” Steineger says. “Here in Wyandotte, we want our cops out on the street patrolling against criminals. Instead we have two cops hauling the mayor around. It was a populist thing.”
Holland also took political hits because he commissioned a fire service study that determined the fire department is overstaffed. The study recommended closing two fire stations in the inner city and building a new station on the west side of the county. Steineger says the firefighters union in Wyandotte County is politically active. Alvey once joined members of the firefighters union in a protest at city hall last year, and Alvey won the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Alvey wasn’t the only classic union Democrat elected to municipal office last night. Rep. Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat, serves in the Kansas House of Representatives. He was elected to the Unified Government Board of Commissioners last night. Burroughs is one of a handful of Kansas Democrats who received the endorsement of the Kansas State Rifle Association for a state house in 2016. Burroughs has said he plans to serve in both capacities.
Burroughs and Alvey ran as a slate of sorts, along with Mike Kane, who won re-election last night. Steineger says the slate was sort of an anti-Holland one backed by the firefighters union.
Last night’s results mark a very subtle shift, Steineger says.
“These are slightly more conservative Democrats, but the new regime is going to be very pro-union.”