Archive for Thursday, April 8, 1999

COMMISSIONERS BEAT DIFFERENT PATHS TO VICTORY

April 8, 1999

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East side, west side, all around the town. The winners of Tuesday's Lawrence City Commission election took different routes to city hall.

Jim Henry won the west, Mike Rundle took the east and David Dunfield bridged the gap in winning seats Tuesday on the Lawrence City Commission.

The three commissioners-elect, who took different routes to victory, will be sworn in during Tuesday's commission meeting, which begins at 6:35 p.m. at the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza Factory Outlets, Sixth and New Hampshire.

Henry, a retired Kansas University administrator, won half of the city's 44 voting precincts. All but five were west of Iowa Street, and those remaining were in the Indian Hills and Prairie Park neighborhoods.

Henry's campaign picked up speed during the last month. While he had won only eight precincts west of Iowa in the March 2 primary, he landed 17 in the general election.

The key: Knocking on several hundred doors, including many near Sunflower School and in the Stone Meadows residential area.

"I did focus on walking the area out here where I had support," said Henry, who lives at 4400 Turnberry. "I hoped that perhaps more people would come out. You can't walk all of Lawrence in two weeks. You hope maybe the word gets out."

McFadden slide

Henry's surge came at Brenda McFadden's expense. McFadden, a downtown accountant, had won nine precincts west of Iowa during the primary, but held only two -- the city's two smallest precincts, giving her 24 votes -- on Tuesday.

The slide left McFadden in fourth place, marking the first time in at least 24 years that the top vote-getter in the primary election did not win a commission seat.

McFadden said that her supporters in the primary "stayed home" on Election Day, too apathetic to make it to the polls. And her media strategy didn't help.

"I think the difference was at the end. There was a big media blitz on Cable 6, and we didn't do that," said McFadden, who remains immersed in 70-hour work weeks as the federal income-tax deadline approaches. "Who knows? Obviously I'm not happy with the way it turned out."

Kurt Thurmaier, an associate professor of public administration at Kansas University, took another message from McFadden's demise. Voters, he said, wanted to be sure that their new commissioners would have the time for city hall, commitments communicated through attending forums, answering questionnaires and knocking on doors.

"Money can't buy you an election," said Thurmaier, who worked on Dunfield's campaign. "Once again, we see that's the case. McFadden spent almost $12,000 and lost. " The key to campaigning is working hard to talk to voters and find out what they really think. David did that, and I know Henry did that."

Dunfield, an architect who finished fourth in the primary election, climbed into third by garnering broad-based support across town. While he won only three precincts Tuesday, he finished as one of the top three vote-getters in 34 precincts, the most of any candidate.

Dunfield ran second to Rundle in 11 precincts east of Iowa, 10 of them west of Massachusetts Street. He also finished third behind Henry and McFadden in 10 precincts out west, the area Dunfield considered the key to victory.

"I think the general thinking is there are more voters west and south, and more people who are likely to vote in a local election," said Dunfield, who did much of his door-to-door campaigning west of Iowa and south of 23rd Street.

Targeting the middle

The Dunfield campaign, which reported having $4,086 to spend for the last week of the campaign, mailed go-to-the-polls postcards to 7,000 people who had voted in the 1997 commission election. Volunteers worked the telephones from a list of 10,000 people who had voted in recent elections.

"The theory being that as a sort of middle-of-the road guy, the more of the middle who vote, the more likely it was that I would get elected," Dunfield said. "In low-voter turnout elections, the more organized interest groups tend to get out to vote. If we could get out the middle, we might win.

"It seems to have done the job."

Rundle finished second Tuesday, relying on a solid voter base in older areas of town. He won virtually every precinct that Henry didn't, taking top honors in 16 voting areas -- all of them east of Iowa Street.

His only strength west of Iowa was finishing third in five precincts, including those bordered by Iowa, Monterey Way, Sixth Street and Harvard Road.

Rundle, who lives at 615ting the middle

The Dunfield campaign, which reported having $4,086 to spend for the last week of the campaign, mailed go-toation. He said that his end-of-the-campaign television ads, which pushed for good government and taxpayer protection, helped him step up from a third-place finish in the primary.

"Using advertising to get the word out," Rundle said when asked what made the difference. "Television advertising was important."

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.





ELECTION RESULTS:
Precinct Roll Call

(284K- graphic)




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