Archive for Thursday, June 11, 1992


June 11, 1992


Four years ago, Douglas County voters faced choices in three county races in the primary election.

This year, only one county race drew enough candidates to merit a primary in August.

Leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in Douglas County agree that candidate recruitment is a tough chore that gets more challenging each election.

"We did try to recruit candidates. It was difficult," said Louise Silber, Douglas County Democratic chair.

She said the time and money it takes to run were the main reasons people cited for not running.

"It takes somebody who's willing to make a great deal of sacrifices in their lives," Silber said. "I think a lot of people are stretched financially, and public service is not a highly paid profession."

Her Republican counterpart, Chris Miller, said he started recruiting candidates a year ago with minimal success.

"MANY GOOD, qualified people are good and qualified because they are successful at what they do," he said. "But it's difficult for them to find the time to do anything else. Add to that the disillusionment out there, and people shy away."

The only county race generating a primary election this year is the 2nd District county commission contest involving Republicans Paul Shivel of Lawrence and Ralph M. Tanner of Baldwin. The winner of the Aug. 4 primary will face Democrat James I. Chappell and Libertarian Damon Black in the Nov. 3 general election.

The four men are running for the seat being vacated by Mike Amyx, D-Lawrence. Amyx won a three-way race in the 1988 primary. In other primaries that year, Loren Anderson defeated Dallas Murphy for the Republican nomination as sheriff and Louie McElhaney defeated Warren Rhodes in a Republican race for the 3rd District county commission.

Although there is only one primary race this year, Kansas University professor of political science Burdett Loomis said the current number of candidates is not particularly low.

As an example, he cited the county clerk's position in which Republican Patty Jaimes is running unopposed.

"IF SOMEONE is doing the job reasonably well and there are no scandals, what issues do you run on?" he said. "It strikes me as a political party weakening because they don't put someone up to oppose (the other party's candidate). You're judging the individual."

The main thing, he said, is that voters will face choices in the general election Nov. 3.

"The primary election is simply a device as to who gets the party label," he said.

Gary Toebben, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said time, a loss of privacy and the potential for public scorn were reasons he was given when people decline a run at public office.

"There was a time when people said, `It's my turn to run . . . the community's been good to me,'" he said. "The commitment of time was less, the intrusion in private lives was less and probably, there was less abuse. Now the public eye is always on the public officials."

Beyond the financial reasons Silber mentioned lie the rigors of running, she said.

"Campaigning is hard," Silber said. "You have to be willing to go out every day, hit the bricks, knock on doors and talk to people you don't know."

MILLER ADDED the current political climate was "real tough" and that some people don't want to risk their reputations given the public's perception of politicians.

"There is an attitude toward politicians and political parties out there," he said. "It is not seen as something that is beneficial or positive to be associated with."

But the lesser the involvement, the worse the political system works, Miller said.

"If you have few people involved, it ceases to be a democracy," he said. "And that's what people forget when they don't get involved."

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