Kansas 4th District
With about 360,000 people, Wichita may be smaller than 2 million-plus metro Kansas City, but it is a Great Plains metropolis of the magnitude of Omaha or Tulsa and still growing. It began as a farm market town and grew with local oil and gas discoveries in the 1920s. But its real impetus came during World War II and the years just afterward, when aircraft factories sprouted up on the Kansas plains, and Wichita suddenly became the nation’s major producer of small planes. Today the big four—Cessna, Raytheon, Boeing, Bombardier—are all located in Wichita. In the early 1990s, the general aviation industry was hurt by the recession and by lawsuits that held manufacturers liable for planes they had produced years earlier. Later in the decade, the demand for small planes was robust, and a federal limit on liability enlivened the industry. The September 11 attacks were a severe blow to the airline industry, with the loss of some 15,000 jobs in Wichita. But the Navy gave the area a boost in 2004 with a contract for 100 modified 737’s to be used to hunt submarines. And more good news came with the opening of Cessna’s huge hangar center to service business jets and increased production of new Cessna planes. Boeing, the area’s largest employer, sold its commercial airplane operations in Kansas, but its military division remained strong. The aviation industry is just one facet of the local economy: Wichita also has become a regional health-care center in the Great Plains, as people from miles around come to the metropolis for treatment.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Kansas’ 4th Congressional District is centered around Wichita, covering wheat-growing areas to the east and west, but with most of its people in Wichita and Sedgwick County. Politically, it has voted Republican in federal elections but has voted Democratic occasionally in state contests. The city elected its first African-American mayor, Democrat Carl Brewer, in April 2007.