Democrats swept Lawrence's three Kansas House elections Tuesday, with the only incumbent winning easily and two Kansas University employees capturing seats.
Rep. Betty Jo Charlton, the only state legislator from Lawrence to seek re-election this year, received more votes than her three opponents combined.
"When you're the incumbent, you do have some advantages," Charlton said. "The disadvantage is that you have a record that can be attacked."
The two other races weren't decided until late Tuesday when votes from all 51 precincts were counted. KU administrator Barbara Ballard won by 76 votes. Forrest Swall, KU assistant professor of social welfare, won by 304 votes.
"It was close because I ran in the most Republican district," said Ballard, who lost a bid for the House seat in 1990.
Swall said his campaign benefited from the redrawing of House district boundaries this year by the Kansas Legislature.
"This district was more easily won for Democrats than it has been for a long time," he said.
Ballard and Swall said they would arrange a leave of absence during KU's spring semesters to serve in the House.
RESULTS in brief:
In the 44th District, Ballard received 6,687 votes (48.8 percent); Republican Brian Kubota, 6,611 (48.2 percent); Libertarian Jay Germano, 377 (2.7 percent).
In the 45th District, Swall got 4,986 (48.3 percent); Republican Bob Skahan, 4,682 (45.4 percent); Libertarian Michael Davidson, 475 (4.5 percent). Martha Parker, a write-in candidate who lost to Skahan in the GOP primary, had 166 votes or 1.6 percent.
In the 46th District, Charlton collected 5,946 (52.3 percent); Republican Neva Entrikin, 3,339 (29.3 percent); Independent Richard Small, 1,521 (13.3 percent); Libertarian Matt Conrad, 519 (4.5 percent).
Charlton, 69, will return to the Statehouse for her 13th session as representative for eastern Lawrence's House district. She considered retiring until she learned of the impending retirement of fellow Democratic Rep. John Solbach of Lawrence.
Charlton said Entrikin made a tactical error during the campaign by trying to distort Charlton's record with mass mailings to voters.
"I would not be surprised if my opponent lost votes by doing that," she said. "Voters are tired of negative campaigning."
Entrikin said she was impressed with the Democrats' ability to generate votes among Lawrence residents.
"My hat's off to them," said Entrikin, 59, retired office supervisor at KU's Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art. "The Democrats did their job."
She added: "I have no regrets. It was great fun. I really enjoyed meeting the people."
BALLARD, 47, will represent western Lawrence's 44th District. She's president of the Lawrence school board, director of KU's Emily Taylor Women's Resources Center and associate dean of student life at KU.
She replaces Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, who won election Tuesday to Lawrence's seat in the Kansas Senate. Praeger will succeed retiring Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence.
Ballard said the campaign was challenging because redistricting removed three predominately Democratic precincts from her district.
"It was just like starting over," she said.
Winter said Kubota might have fared better if he had consistently told voters during the campaign why they shouldn't vote for Ballard.
Kubota, the 49-year-old president of Landplan Engineering, said his decision not to solicit endorsements from political action committees and special-interest groups was the primary factor leading to his defeat.
"We came from 27 points down in the poll right after the primary, but we just didn't have enough," he said.
Kubota also criticized the University Daily Kansan, the KU student newspaper, for endorsing Ballard.
"It's unfair for a publicly financed paper to endorse a candidate," he said.
SWALL, 60, said he came out on top in the diverse 45th District because of his positions on issues such as education and abortion. On abortion, Swall is pro-choice and Skahan is pro-life.
"I had a number of people tell me that if I was pro-choice I could win this race," Skahan said. "I just don't know how I could manipulate my convictions."
Skahan, 48, owner of a home-based financial advisory business, said he expected a close race because reapportionment transformed a Republican-based district into one favoring Democrats.
He said the district's boundaries had been designed to favor a re-election bid by Solbach. Solbach announced his retirement after the boundaries were set.
"We did everything we could," Skahan said. "We worked very hard. There is nothing I would do differently."
Although Skahan outspent Swall $15,200 to $5,300 from July to October, Winter didn't think money was a factor in the race.
"I don't think you can buy a race, particularly a local race," Winter said.