Can a write-in candidate win the Wichita mayor's race?

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

The push is on to lure Lyndy Wells back into the mayor's race.  But, does he have a chance to win as a write-in candidate?  

"Just wanting this community to believe that it's not stuck with two choices," said Wichita businessman Jon Rolph.  "Our democracy allows for write-in candidates and write-in candidates do win."

Those behind the push include former Wichita mayors Bob Knight and Carl Brewer.  Supporters say, with the current conditions, he could still win.  But those who study elections say it would a longshot at best.

"The time is against him," said Dr. Russell Arben Fox, Political Science professor at Friends University.  "The mechanics of voting is against him. The surprisingly partisan nature of the Longwell/Whipple contest is against him."

You may have seen the commercial by now asking you to tell Lyndy Wells to re-enter the race for Wichita Mayor.  Jon Rolph paid for the ad.  He says Wichita needs a mayor more experienced than Brandon Whipple and more transparent than Jeff Longwell.

He's counting on Wells' strong finish in the primary, just 160 votes behind Whipple, to give him the needed boost in a write-in campaign.

"The world looks a lot different now than it did during the primary because of the Eagle's reporting and everything that's going on," Rolph said, referencing accusations Mayor Jeff Longwell behaved unethically during the bidding process for a new water treatment plant in Wichita.  "I think, if you had all three names on the ballot right now, Lyndy wins, hands down."

Fox says those reports are influencing the race and people's vote, he remains skeptical of a write-in candidate's chances.  He says write-in candidates face a lot of uphill battles, from name recognition to financing.

"Just because you get votes in a primary doesn't mean you're going to get votes in the general, and it particularly doesn't mean that you're going to get people who will show up at the polling booth and will write your name down properly," Fox said.

He added that a write-in candidate usually steals votes from the minority candidate or challenger.  In this case that would be Whipple.  But, with the recent headlines, he says, Wells could also play the spoiler in Longwell's re-election bid.  

"If I had to put a number on it, I would say 60% chance it hurts Whipple more, 40% chance it hurts Longwell more," Fox said.

"I got calls from both camps yesterday believing that I was going to be handing the election to their opponent," Rolph said.  

And then there's the matter of time.  

Wells told KAKE News he's considering the idea because others brought it back up.  But he won't make a decision until the middle of next week.  That would leave him just a few days to get the word out before early voting gets underway October  21st.

"Outreach takes time," Fox said.  "You can't just snap your fingers and you have an effective message, get (it) out in front of all the eyeballs, get (it) out into all the mailboxes like that."

That's not slowing down Wells' supporters.

"You've got to look at circumstances when people win, not the total of when write-ins win," Rolph said.  "And when they win generally a community is in some kind of crisis."

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