In what the winning candidates agreed was a show of support for downtown and a municipal golf course, Lawrence voters Tuesday elected two new city commissioners and re-elected one incumbent.
First-time candidates Bob Schulte and John Nalbandian received the strongest voter support and will be sworn in to four-year terms before Tuesday's commission meeting.
And in an upset of sorts, incumbent Commissioner Bob Schumm jumped from a fourth-place primary finish to third place, securing a two-year term.
Schumm's victory marks only the third time since 1975 that a fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-place primary finisher was able to recover enough ground to win a spot on the commission. In so doing, Schumm beat out incumbent David Penny, who finished second in the primary, but slid to fifth place Tuesday.
SCHULTE and Nalbandian finished a close first and second, separated by fewer than 100 votes.
Nalbandian who had finished third in the primary, joked after the final results were posted Tuesday night that given two more weeks to campaign, he could have been in first place.
Schumm finished about 700 votes off the leaders' pace. Schumm, Penny and fourth-place finisher Toni Dudley were tightly bunched, with fewer than 300 votes separating fifth from third place.
Paul Horvath repeated his sixth-place primary finish in Tuesday's balloting.
About 35 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots, a typical turnout for an election with no controversial issues.
Schulte said the outcome indicated support for downtown but noted, "There are other things, too. The three of us were also endorsed by . . . the group for a municipal golf course. I think there's something to all of that."
THE THREE winners and Dudley received the support of a group of residents backing a municipal golf course. The top three also were endorsed by the Downtown Lawrence organization.
Schulte, vice president of Gene Fritzel Construction Co., credited a "broad base of support" for his victory.
"People want to feel there's somebody out there who can listen to all sides of an issue and make a reasonable decision based on what they hear, and I think the voters thought I would do that," he said.
Increasing the efficiency of the commission and the city and reducing pettiness among the commissioners are among Schulte's immediate goals, he said.
Nalbandian agreed that increasing the commission's effectiveness would be a top goal.
"I THINK Schulte and I need to be sure it at least gets considered that we might improve the work of the commission," he said.
During the campaign, Nalbandian, an associate professor of public administration at Kansas University, suggested the commission's goal-setting process be more closely tied to the city's budget and called for setting policies to avoid having to revisit issues.
"Right now, I'm just interested in finding out about the lay of the land," he said. "As a candidate, you're talking in generalities and hoping that people will get some sense of who you are and what you'll stand for.
"But, for example, what're we going to do about Sixth Street? We need to know the details of that, and there's a number of other issues that are like that. What're we going to do about Pizazz?"
The election gave downtown a "boost," he said. "Schulte makes no bones about downtown being the center of the sense of community, and I do as well, and certainly Schumm does," he said.
SCHUMM, who owns businesses downtown, said, "The people who finished one, two and three supported a unified city including support for a strong downtown. The people who finished fifth and sixth advocated something different from that. So I think it's very reasonable to believe that there is strong sentiment for a strong downtown."
But, like Nalbandian, he credited what he called "good, solid, hard campaigning" for his success.
"I also believe that underlying was the issue of a municipal golf course. The people who supported it won, and the people who did not support it, or did not genuinely support it, did not win," Schumm said. "I think that was a little bit stronger than most people thought.
"In a close election like this where only a couple hundred votes separate the three positions . . . a hundred votes here and there did separate the fourth position from the third position."
PENNY SAID his outspoken support for a suburban mall and attacks on city support of downtown may have cost him some votes, but he also blamed what he called "political liability." Included in that liability, he said, was his vote against the plan for a municipal golf course.
"In this business, you accumulate debts and not assets," he said. "People that came out on the good side (of commission votes) don't remember and the people that came out on the bad side always remember. . . . I alienate people because I'm straightforward."
He said the vote could signify support for downtown, but said "all the facts aren't out yet."
"It's just a question of if the taxpayers want to continue to put money into that, they need commissioners that are going to do it. I just wasn't going to continue that."
Penny said he would remain involved in city issues, but that he would not run again for city commission.