The Aug. 1 primary election will help decide which candidates will have a seat on the Unified Government Commission, which meets in City Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. Credit: Christopher Smith

Kansas voters won’t find any federal or statewide races on ballots this year, but more than a dozen candidates in the Wyandotte County election are in competitive primary races to represent voters on a city and county level.

For 25 years, the Unified Government has served as the municipal government for Kansas City, Kansas, as well as the county-level government for Edwardsville, Bonner Springs and a small part of Lake Quivira.

Half of the 10-member Board of Commissioners is up for election this fall, with the potential to shape budget, housing and development decisions across Wyandotte County for the next four years.

Three candidates are running in the Aug. 1 primary to represent District 6, where Angela Markley has decided not to run for reelection. After the primary, the top two vote-getters will proceed to the Nov. 7 general election.

District 6 covers most of the areas of Kansas City, Kansas, that lie between I-435 to the west, I-70 to the north and I-635 to the east, as well as the part of Lake Quivira that is in Wyandotte County.

To prepare for this year’s Unified Government election, The Beacon reached out to all candidates in the four competitive primary races with a three-part questionnaire. These questionnaires include biographical questions, four lightning-round yes-or-no questions and five short-answer policy questions. Some responses have been lightly edited for length or clarity.

Following the primary election on Aug. 1, two candidates will be eliminated, and the other two will proceed to the general election on Nov. 7.

The three candidates in the District 6 race are Steve Neal, Philip Lopez and Mary Martin.

Mary Martin, who does not have an email address, received the questionnaire by mail and responded to the biographical and lightning-round questions over the phone. She chose not to respond to the rest of the questionnaire, saying it was too long. 

When Philip Lopez did not return several voicemails, The Beacon left a note at his business, Arboles Tree Trimming, but did not receive any response prior to publication.

Click on a link to jump to a question:

Meet the candidates

Steve Neal

Wyandotte County District 6 candidate Steve Neal smiles

Neal has been the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Turner for 16 years, where he also works as the coordinator of the Caring Connection Collaborative.

Favorite place to get tacos in KCK: Either the taco truck at 55th Street and Pitkin Avenue or the taco truck at 42nd Street and Metropolitan Avenue.

Favorite thing to do or favorite festival in KCK: Two of my favorites are Silver City Days in Argentine and Turner Days.

Mary Martin

Martin is a retired glazier.

Favorite place to get tacos in KCK: Rodeo’s in Basehor, Kansas.

Favorite thing to do or favorite festival in KCK: Gardening

Lightning round questions

Candidates were asked for a yes-or-no position in response to these four questions:

  1. Should the Department of Justice investigate the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department?
  2. Should officials be allowed to hold more than one elected position at a time?
  3. Should the Board of Commissioners have limited the mayor’s powers in February 2023?
  4. Should housing developments receiving tax incentives be required to include units at affordable rent prices? 

How would you increase affordable housing in Wyandotte County?

Neal: As District 6 commissioner, I will advocate for and support the creation of a housing trust fund that can be utilized to assist those in need of affordable housing. We also need to be creative and collaborative in our efforts of balancing new development with sufficient stock of affordable and equitable housing. This can be done through reasonable incentives and requirements.

What would you do to improve public safety?

Neal: My goal would be to facilitate partnership between neighborhood groups and community policing. I will also work to revitalize neighborhood groups throughout District 6, as well as partner with such groups as Wyandotte Countians Against Crime and Wyandotte County Citizens Patrol. 

Would you do anything to make property tax assessment more fair?

Neal: All county tax assessors are regulated by Kansas state statutes. My role as commissioner will be to work to cut waste within UG spending, keep mill levies as low as possible and call upon our state representatives and senators to look closely at state statutes concerning property assessment and to make them fair and equitable.

What should the Unified Government do to address the issue of rising houselessness?

Neal: The UG budget should allot funding for a cold and warm weather shelter in Wyandotte County. As District 6 commissioner, I am willing to work closely with all entities in Wyandotte whose mission is to eliminate homelessness in our city and county.

If elected, what issues will you make your own?

Neal: Established neighborhoods first! Continued new development while deferring needed infrastructure in our older, established communities is detrimental to our city and county as a whole. I will work to and advocate for a more balanced and equitable system which better serves our established neighborhoods.

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Josh Merchant is The Kansas City Beacon's local government reporter. After graduating from Seattle University, Josh attended Columbia Journalism School, earning a master’s degree in investigative journalism....