In Topeka mayoral race, Democrats chose De La Isla while Republicans voted for Duncan

Michelle De La Isla, right, was born in New York, and moved as a child to Puerto Rico with her mother and brother when her mother fled for safety to live with her parents. Spencer Duncan, left, was born and raised in Topeka, attending McEachron Elementary School, French Middle School and Topeka West High School. His father, R.E. “Tuck” Duncan, is a longtime Topeka attorney. (Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal)

Michelle De La Isla received more votes than Spencer Duncan in this past week’s mayoral election in all six Topeka City Council districts where Democrats outnumber Republicans, while Duncan got more votes in all three districts where Republicans outnumber Democrats.


Election records show that among votes cast only for De La Isla or Duncan, she received 57 percent in District 1, 52 percent in District 2, 56 percent in District 3, 52 percent in District 4, 55 percent in District 5 and 57 percent in District 6. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in all six districts, according to the Shawnee County election office website.

Meanwhile, Duncan received 54 percent in District 7, and 52 percent each in districts 8 and 9. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in those districts.

De La Isla said Friday she thought the mayoral race — which is supposed to be nonpartisan — became more partisan after Topekans saw news coverage about an anonymous postcard sent to some residents in late July labeling her as a Democrat and Duncan as a Republican.

Duncan stressed that when the postcard came out, he quickly contacted The Topeka Capital-Journal to make it clear to the public he is an independent, not a Republican, adding he had nothing to do with the postcard.

“I’m a registered independent and I ran this race as a registered independent,” he said Friday.

At the time the postcard came out, Duncan and De La Isla were among five candidates for mayor in the Aug. 1 primary, where both won the right to run in last Tuesday’s general election.

It remains unclear who sent the postcard or how many residents received it. The postcard told recipients to “know the difference” between the two.

Duncan replied by publicly stressing he was registered as being unaffiliated. He had been a Republican before changing his affiliation April 19.

De La Isla responded by noting races for Topeka’s mayoral and council seats are nonpartisan, and saying she had nothing to do with the card and was unhappy it was sent out.

“It should not be about party,” she said July 31. “It should be about the candidates’ track record and their heart for the position.”

De La Isla said Friday she thought the race became more partisan after The Capital-Journal, in an article about the postcard, revealed the political affiliations of herself and Duncan.

“I think it really differentiated us,” she said.

Duncan said Friday, “It is a nonpartisan race, but you have to be registered as something to run. I was a little disappointed that the parties chose to view this as a partisan race, as opposed to a nonpartisan race to focus on the candidates.”

Duncan added he was the only candidate in this year’s mayoral race who put out specific policy statements.

“Anyone who reads them will see why I’m an independent,” he said.

Those statements included ideas from Democrats and Republicans, Duncan said.

He added that in his campaign messages, he sought votes from everyone.

Duncan said it was his perception that De La Isla did more “targeted” messaging aimed at people who shared her political beliefs.

Shawnee County election commissioner Andrew Howell said final, unofficial totals from Tuesday’s election showed De La Isla received 8,167 votes compared to 7,719 for Duncan.

Results won’t become official until after the Shawnee County Commission meets at 9 a.m. Thursday as the county’s board of canvassers. Commissioners plan to certify the results after deciding the status of any ballots that may have been classified as provisional because election workers questioned their legality.

Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.


Mayoral Vote Totals by District

Here’s how many votes each candidate for mayor received in Tuesday’s general election in each of the nine Topeka City Council districts, as well as how many Democrats and Republicans are registered to vote in each of those districts:

District De La Isla Duncan Democrats Republicans

District 1 680 516 2,436 1,439

District 2 542 491 2,437 1,565

District 3 446 353 2,685 898

District 4 917 860 2,965 2,108

District 5 1,031 836 2,779 2,720

District 6 1,177 904 3,072 2,923

District 7 1,245 1,467 2,640 4,589

District 8 1,070 1,145 2,559 3,919

District 9 1,059 1,147 2,963 3,449

Source: Shawnee County election office records