A 23-year-old mayor who was accused of staging a coup to retake office last month after stepping down in 2022 amid an ethics scandal says he’s protecting the citizenry from “woke, liberal, mafioso-style people” foisting a leftist agenda on them.
“They want to attack me so they can put their own person on the city council and as mayor and push their liberal propaganda, their woke propaganda,” Hunter Larkin, the mayor of Goddard, Kansas, told talk radio host and former Republican state legislator John Whitmer.
Larkin’s two main political foes are both Republicans, but that did nothing to stop him from presenting himself as a crucial bulwark against progressivism, saying he was the one best suited to preserve Goddard’s traditional values.
On Whitmer’s show, which aired Sunday, Larkin described Goddard, a suburb of Wichita with a population of 5,300, as “small-town USA.”
“We have the nuclear family where you have the mother, you have the father, you have the kids,” he said. “And at the center of everything, there’s God, okay?”
Larkin, who was arrested for DUI in 2021 and later pleaded guilty, went on to trash former Goddard councilman Michael Proctor, a Republican who is now leading a bipartisan, grassroots recall effort to force Larkin from office. Proctor is nothing more than a “RINO,” or “Republican In Name Only,” who is jealous of his success, claimed Larkin.
And of former Goddard Mayor Larry Zimmerman—whose seat Larkin usurped by exploiting procedural minutiae in an extraordinary move many observers likened to a coup d’etat—Larkin claimed he “didn’t hold a gun to his head to tell him to leave.” (In fact, Zimmerman, also a Republican, automatically retained his council seat but resigned on the spot, in disgust, after Larkin maneuvered his way back into power and promptly fired the Goddard city administrator upon once again becoming mayor.)
Larkin unironically blamed the toxic atmosphere in modern politics on “misinformation,” decrying the influence of social media. Those that don’t agree with Larkin’s views see him as “the devil,” he said.
“They’re just awful,” Larkin continued. “And I keep on thinking about Ronald Reagan’s quote, you probably know it: ‘That’s the problem with our liberal friends, is not that they’re ignorant, but it’s that they know so much that isn’t so.’ And this is the example of what’s going on in Goddard, are these liberal, woke people, and these RINO Republicans, they know so much that isn’t so. And I’m not going to give it any attention.”
Proctor, according to Larkin, “wanted to be mayor,” and coveted a seat in the state legislature, as well.
“And both of those things never happened,” he told Whitmer, alleging that Proctor has “teamed up with these Democrats” to expel him. “And he is upset with me.”
Proctor grew up in Goddard and relinquished his seat on the city council last year when he moved to another town nearby. He told The Daily Beast that Larkin’s claims are nothing short of “absurd,” emphasizing that he never had any interest in running for the statehouse.
“He’s trying to say I’m just butt-hurt and the rest are liberals in sheep’s clothing that I’m harnessing for ill will,” Proctor said Wednesday, noting that one of the people quietly helping out in the recall bid previously served in a Republican leadership position.
He believes Larkin—who works for a company owned by a local real estate family that has donated heavily to Larkin’s political ambitions and relies on Goddard’s city legislature to approve or deny things like building permits—is just trying to to distract from his ethical issues with “the appearance of a personal vendetta.”
Proctor explained that the Goddard mayor and city council members serve “at-large” and don’t officially claim party affiliations. In his latest stint as mayor, Larkin, according to Proctor, has taken to creating “his own reality.”
Zimmerman, who told The Daily Beast he almost always votes Republican, has been part of Goddard’s municipal fabric for more than three decades, serving at one point on the city council with Proctor’s grandfather.
Last May, then-Vice-Mayor Zimmerman allowed Larkin to maintain a portion of his dignity in the wake of ethical concerns that would have otherwise seen him forced from office, he said. (Larkin was promoted from city council president to mayor in August 2020, when the then-mayor of Goddard stepped down over a fraud charge for counterfeiting tickets to a local “Zoobilee” charity event.)
“The council gave him the choice to either step down or be removed, and he stepped down to save face,” Zimmerman said Wednesday, noting that this was the first time he has ever publicly revealed this behind-the-scenes detail. “And that made him unhappy, and he was looking for an opportunity to get back in and be mayor again.”
But, Zimmerman added, “Apparently saving face isn’t something he’s too concerned about, the way he’s now slamming everybody else.”
Larkin should have stepped aside long before it came to that, because “he was voting on issues involving [people] who were contributing to his campaign,” Zimmerman continued. After he was no longer Goddard’s mayor, Zimmerman said Larkin “did not have control over how money was being spent—it was being watched over by the city administrator.
“And he basically got together and created a coup because he knew I would not remove the city administrator,” Zimmerman explained. “There was no reason to. …And so now we have a city council that has chosen to blindly follow Larkin into wherever he is taking them, with no one to watch over what they’re spending money on because he’s got the final say on their expenditures. And now the taxpayer has no one to raise a red flag, except the citizens themselves, who will now have to watch every [city council] meeting.”
Zimmerman said he was on the Goddard city council for 23 years before walking out in protest. That entire time, he maintained, things ran smoothly. Now, the opposite is true. (“Larry doesn’t care to be mayor,” said Proctor. “But he’s been a great asset to the city council because he knows so much about how we got to where we’re at. Larry knows the backstory.”)
That Larkin is once again running Goddard is a “black eye” for all involved, and casts a “dark shadow” over the city, according to Zimmerman. Until Larkin took office again in January, Goddard was respected by other cities and legislators in the region.
“And now we’re not,” he said. “It’s going to take us five to 10 years for us to rebuild our reputation after he’s gone.”
Proctor said the recall petition is awaiting authortities’ approval to proceed. Larkin’s term as mayor of Goddard expires at the end of 2023, after which he plans to run for a seat in the Kansas statehouse.
His campaign website, a leftover from a prior, unsuccessful bid for the same office, says he will defend the ideals “so many of us hold dear,” such as “voter integrity, right to bear arms, protecting the unborn and keeping Critical Race Theory (CRT) out of schools.”
Larkin read, but did not respond to, a text message sent to his personal cell phone on Wednesday seeking comment, and did not return an interview request sent to his official Goddard email address. He previously declined to speak to The Daily Beast, saying he had “no desire to talk to the fake news media.”
The Daily Beast