Amyx, Cromwell and Johnson pick up seats on Lawrence City Commission

Mike Amyx, who received the most votes in the city commission race, gets a high five from steering committee member and supporter Becky Mondi, Lawrence, as the final numbers are announced during his watch party at the American Legion Tuesday, April 7, 2009.

View a detailed breakdown of results from every precinct for this race

With perhaps the tightest city budget in recent memory looming, voters selected a familiar face in Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission election.

Mike Amyx, the lone incumbent running in the race, won a wire-to-wire victory and easily took the top spot. Aron Cromwell, the owner of an environmental consulting business, finished a solid second. Lance Johnson — the owner of a civil engineering firm and the campaign’s top fundraiser — had to wait until the final precinct was counted to win a third-place victory.

Amyx — a downtown barber shop owner who served on the City Commission from 1983 to 1988 and from 2005 to 2009 — said he’s convinced voters spoke with their pocketbooks.

“The big thing I heard from people is that they are concerned how their money is going to be spent,” Amyx said. “Let’s face it, people are having to make hard decisions about how to spend their money.”

The election results mean there will be two new faces on the five-member commission when Cromwell and Johnson are sworn in at next Tuesday’s meeting. Commissioners Sue Hack and Boog Highberger did not seek re-election.

In an election that featured a turnout of just 13.9 percent, Amyx led the eight-person field with 5,564 votes. He was followed by Cromwell with 3,982 votes; Lance Johnson, 3,572; Price Banks, a Lawrence attorney and former city planning director, 3,413; James Bush, a sales and marketing professional, 3,241; Gwen Klingenberg, a private music instructor and Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods president, 2,470; Dennis Constance, a custodial supervisor at KU and a city commissioner from the 1980s, 2,204; and Tom Johnson, general manager of KJHK radio, 700.

Cromwell broke into the top three after running a campaign that pledged not to cut funding for social service programs, and to change the city’s economic development strategy to focus more on tourism, small businesses, and the retirement industry.

“I think this shows that people want us to work to preserve and strengthen our economy and our job base, while at the same time worrying about the social and environmental issues that have always been important to us,” Cromwell said.

Voters, though, did not come out in large numbers for the other two candidates — Klingenberg and Constance — who stressed the need to stave off social service funding cuts.

“I’m not sure what to make of this,” Constance said as the vote totals came in. “There were a lot of people I talked to who just weren’t aware there was an election that was going on. I guess they didn’t feel like there was a burning issue.”

Lance Johnson said he believes that voters sent a message that jobs are an important issue. He made that his central campaign issue, but voters did not flow to Bush, who also stressed many of the same ideas.

“I think voters are still saying that we need jobs and we need to grow our tax base,” Johnson said. “What they may be saying is that there are some differences on how we do that.”