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Sedgwick County commissioners in three districts face challengers for reelection on Nov. 8, but one race is drawing the most attention from donors and the biggest expenditures by a candidate: District 4, where Ryan Baty is trying to recapture for Republicans the seat held by incumbent Democrat Lacey Cruse. District 4 includes central Wichita, extends north to include Park City and Valley Center and extends west to take in Maize.
Cruse was first elected in 2018, when she unseated Republican Richard Ranzau, who had held the seat since 2010. Cruse won 56% of the vote, by a margin of 3,534 votes. Since then, the Sedgwick County Commission districts have been reapportioned to account for population growth and 282 Republicans were moved into District 4, according to a Wichita Eagle analysis.
Baty outspends Cruse 2 to 1 in Sedgwick County District 4
Baty, the Republican, both outraised and outspent Cruse, the Democrat, by more than 2 to 1 during the reporting period, which covers July 22 through Oct. 27. Baty raised $54,000 to Cruse’s $20,000; he spent $79,000 to her $35,000. (Candidates were able to spend more than they raised because of cash on hand from previous reporting periods.)
For comparison, the next largest amount raised and spent by a commission candidate was District 1 incumbent Pete Meitzner, a Republican, who raised $47,000 and spent $50,000 during the reporting period. District 1 challenger Kelli Grant, a Democrat, raised $13,600 and spent $21,000. In District 5, incumbent Republican Jim Howell raised $19,800 and spent $24,600. His Democratic challenger John McIntosh raised $10,700 and spent $12,700.
Baty’s campaign fundraising ability reflects the people supporting him – donors with the ability to give large sums. He received 80 donations of $500 each, the legal maximum for a campaign cycle. His donors include high-profile business owners Johnny Steven and Wink Hartman, real estate developers Steven Clark and Steve Barrett and current local officials Bryan Frye (District 5, Wichita City Council), Susan Humphries (District 99 state representative), Renee Erickson (District 30 state senator), Brandi Baily (Sedgwick County treasurer) and John Lehnherr (Park City mayor). Baty also received support from former elected officials Cindy Claycomb (District 6, Wichita City Council), Joy Eakins (District 2, Wichita Board of Education) and Karl Peterjohn (District 3, Sedgwick County Commission). Also listed as a donor in the filing was high-profile criminal defense lawyer Charley O’Hara.
More money allows Republican to air TV ads
This support has allowed Baty to advertise on television, spending more than $5,000 on video production and another $24,000 on TV ad buys, during the period. Glossy postcards were Baty’s second largest campaigning expense. Disclosure reports show he spent more than $18,000 on three mass mailings and at least $1,000 on graphic design work. In addition, Baty spent $8,500 on yard signs, according to the report, and $2,400 on Facebook ads from Aug. 3 to Oct. 31, according to data made public by Meta.
Cruse’s campaign is supported by a dozen attorneys and a judge, including prominent litigators Randy Rathbun and Phillip Slape. A dozen donors were people who identified as retirees; four dozen donors did not list an occupation, as required. She received a dozen contributions at the $500 maximum level. Cruse also had support from current and former elected officials including District 92 State Rep. John Carmichael and his predecessor, former Rep. Nile Dillmore.
Democrat relies on billboards, yard signs and text campaigns
With less money to spend, Cruse spent her advertising on lower-cost alternatives: billboards ($4,000), yard signs ($4,000) and a texting campaign ($1,300). She also bought print advertising in an NAACP banquet program ($300) and The Community Voice ($900) and The Active Age ($750) newspapers. The report also describes $2,150 spent on a mobile mural by Heather Byers, artist and daughter-in-law of District 86 State Rep. Stephanie Byers. Cruse also spent $979 on Facebook ads from Aug. 3 to Oct. 31, according to data made public by Meta.
You may review the complete campaign finance reports yourself here: Ryan Baty, 4th District challenger or Lacey Cruse, 4th District incumbent. All Sedgwick County campaign finance reports may be viewed here.
To read about where Lacey and Baty stand on the issues, please see our story, “District 4 candidates give views on fentanyl, mental health and marijuana.” To research other candidates on Wichita ballots, see The Beacon’s Wichita 2022 General Election Toolkit.