Now there are two slates of candidates in the Lawrence City Commission race.
Former mayors Erv Hodges and Bob Walters on Saturday announced the formation of a new political action committee, called Truth for a Better Lawrence, to counter the success of the "smart growth" Progressive Lawrence Campaign.
"We believe the PLC campaign stands more for 'no growth' than for 'progressive growth,'" Walters said.
The new committee filed formation papers with the state Thursday, he said. The announcement comes less than three weeks before the April 1 general election.
"We can be very effective" during that time, Walters said. "We have a good plan to advertise the candidates and our issues."
Those candidates are Lynn Goodell, Lee Gerhard and Greg DiVilbiss, who finished in fourth through sixth places, respectively, in the February primary election.
The top three finishers were incumbent Mike Rundle, Dennis "Boog" Highberger and David Schauner, all backed by the Progressive Lawrence Campaign. They've advocated for stronger government management of the city's growth, stricter control of floodplain development and in favor of a "living wage requirement" for companies that receive tax abatements.
Hodges said Progressive Lawrence policies would hurt the city economically, driving away business and driving up property prices. A Truth for a Better Lawrence brochure said the group favors the current tax abatement and floodplain development policies, "community-wide discussion" of the living wage, a stronger neighborhood voice in city planning and completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
The brochure also targeted specific Progressive Lawrence candidates. It cited Rundle's recent vote against an 80 percent tax abatement for Serologicals Corp., a biotech company locating in Lawrence that will pay its employees an average $47,000 a year.
It also decried "commuter commissioners"; Highberger and Schauner both work in Topeka. And while it never mentioned Highberger by name, the brochure says the group favors capitalism -- an apparent reference to Highberger's 16-year-old essays for anarchist magazines that critics say show an anticapitalist bent.
"We cannot afford four years of little or no prosperity in our community," Hodges said. "We need independent city commissioners who are open-minded and who can provide real leadership as Lawrence continues to grow."
Progressive Lawrence members showed up at Saturday's news conference to challenge Hodges and Walters.
"Looking at your flier, it looks like you'll be fear-mongering over the next two weeks," said Jason Fizell, Highberger's campaign manager.
Others countered Hodges' descriptions of Truth's candidates as "independent," saying Goodell, Gerhard and DiVilbiss have received much of their support from developers. And Fizell said the new group was hypocritical to criticize the Progressive Lawrence PAC but form one of their own.
"I've always believed," Hodges said, "that you fight fire with fire."