Youth and experience were served Tuesday in the two Douglas County Commission races, with political newcomer Jim Chappell and incumbent Louie McElhaney prevailing in a pair of convincing victories.
Chappell, a rural Lawrence Democrat, defeated Ralph Tanner, a Baldwin Republican, and Damon Black, a rural Lawrence Libertarian in the 2nd Commission District.
Chappell received 6,454 votes, or 51.5 percent, to Tanner's 5,229 votes, or 41.8 percent. Black finished a distant third with 813 votes, or 6.5 percent. Chappell, 31, will replace Mike Amyx on the commission. Amyx chose not to run for a second term.
McElhaney, a 57-year-old rural Lawrence Republican, earned his second term to represent the 3rd Commission District by defeating former County Commissioner I.J. Stoneback, a rural Lawrence Democrat. McElhaney garnered 6,918 votes, or 59.3 percent, to Stoneback's 4,670 votes, or 40 percent.
Both winners expressed relief and elation about the campaign being over.
"I feel good about it, and I felt good from the start," McElhaney said.
"I'm ready to start to work."
Chappell echoed those sentiments.
"IT FEELS great," he said. "I figured up the other day that it had been five months since I started doing this, and I spent about three hours a day doing it. I don't know what I'm going to do with all my time now."
McElhaney said he geared his low-key effort to how Stoneback ran his campaign.
"He didn't get out and work, so I didn't do much myself," McElhaney said, adding he spent less than $1,000 in his re-election bid.
On issues facing the county, McElhaney mentioned constructing both the South Lawrence Trafficway and the Northeast Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
"BUT YOU can't key on just those things that are in the process right now because in the time four years come up, you're going to have some other things that come to light."
For example, he mentioned a proposal before the state Legislature to regionalize taxpayer support of community colleges. In the proposal, Douglas County taxpayers would support the operations of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, a plan that could more than triple what the county now pays to support community colleges statewide.
"I want to follow that real close," McElhaney said. "Douglas County is not faring well in the bill that's proposed. I certainly want to fight that as hard as I can."
Stoneback said his 40 percent showing "was pretty good," but added he was disappointed in the outcome.
"I always want to win," he said.
STONEBACK, 75, served as a commissioner from 1973 to 1977. He also lost to McElhaney in 1988. Stoneback said he would not run for office again.
Chappell credited endorsements from Amyx, former commissioners Nancy Hiebert and Bob Neis, as well as Pat Hopper, wife of the late commissioner David Hopper, and walking almost the entire district as the keys to his success.
"I think people were attracted to the fact that I always tried to address specific issues and to have a plan and not just speak in general terms," Chappell said.
Concerning immediate priorities when he takes office in January, Chappell pointed to completing the South Lawrence Trafficway.
"People don't realize this, but we're already paying for it," he said. "It's under way, and it's going to happen, but I think we need to press on that. And we need to press on and get our funding for the Eastern Parkway and get that done."
TANNER, former Baker University president, said he was a little disappointed in his defeat.
"I did as well as a person from outside Lawrence could be expected to do," he said.
Tanner said Chappell was helped by the strong showing by President-elect Bill Clinton in the county. Tanner also said Chappell outspent him by "two or three to one," which helped with Chappell's name recognition.
Tanner, 65, said he did not think he would seek another elective office.
Black, 28, said he picked up a few more votes than he expected since he did not run an active campaign.
"It shows that voters are a lot more dissatisfied with the Democrats and Republicans than I thought," he said.
BLACK, who runs Custom Guttering of Lawrence and attends Kansas University, said he might try for office again when he has more time to "run a real campaign."
With Chappell's election, the commission retains its two Republican, one Democrat makeup that it has held the past two years. Chappell said he has enjoyed a good working relationship with Commission Chairman Mark Buhler and McElhaney on other matters. Chappell added that he did not think the commission would experience any party partisanship.
"I think that the commissioners that we have understand that we've got a lot of serious business in Douglas County," he said. "I think we'll all work together to get those problems solved."