City Commission primary: Amyx, Farmer, Riordan, Chestnut, Criqui, Soden qualify for April election

The six candidates for three open city commission seats from left clockwise, Mike Amyx, Jeremy Farmer, Terry Riordan, Leslie Soden, Scott Criqui and Rob Chestnut.

Sandra Elston, a poll worker at Trinity Lutheran Church, knits by LED lantern because of a power outage Tuesday morning, Feb. 26. Elston's own home was without power but she walked to the precinct. Her yarn got a little wet from the snow during the walk, but came in handy while waiting for voters. Area streets and trees were packed with snow and more than 1,500 Douglas County residents were without power as Lawrence woke up to its second major winter storm in less than a week.

The old hand of the Lawrence City Commission finished Tuesday’s primary election with the upper hand, but two newcomers also closed in on commission seats.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx — who is seeking his fifth term on the commission — took the top spot in Tuesday’s primary election, besting the 11-candidate field by more than 500 votes.

Political newcomers Jeremy Farmer — the CEO of Lawrence food bank Just Food — and Lawrence physician Terry Riordan took the second and third spots respectively. Tuesday’s primary narrowed the field to six candidates. Also qualifying for the general election were former commissioner Rob Chestnut, local nonprofit executive Scott Criqui and former neighborhood leader Leslie Soden.

The April 2 election will determine the three winners who will join incumbents Bob Schumm and Mike Dever on the City Commission.

Amyx said he felt the election turned on concerns about city finances and spending on new projects. “There is a lot of concern from voters about their paychecks and the amount of money going out the door right now,” Amyx, a downtown barbershop owner, said. “I think people view me as a good fiscal manager, and that is what I’ll focus on in the future.”

The primary results could be seen as a mixed message from voters on the proposed Rock Chalk Park recreation center project: Amyx opposes it, but Farmer and Riordan have generally indicated they favor it.

But the clearest conclusion that came out of Tuesday’s primary may have been what didn’t happen: Large numbers of residents didn’t vote, apparently due to a snowstorm that hit the city as polls were opening. Voter turnout checked in at just 8.6 percent.

Turnout for the April 2 election is expected to be significantly higher, as Lawrence voters also will be asked to decide on a $92.5 million bond issue that would pay for a host of Lawrence Public School District improvements.

“We just got a glimpse tonight,” said Riordan, who has been a Lawrence pediatrician for the last 30 years and is making his first run for political office. “There will be a lot of new voters out there for the general election.”

Six candidates will get a chance to win them over. The candidates moving onto the general election, and their vote totals, are:

• Amyx: 2,989 votes

• Farmer: 2,464

• Riordan: 2,067

• Chestnut, chief financial officer for a Topeka-based company and former city commissioner: 1,769

• Criqui, an executive with Lawrence-based Trinity In-Home Care and a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission: 1,677

• Soden, owner of a Lawrence pet care business and former president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association: 1,532

The five candidates not moving on are:

• Judy Bellome: 1,296

• Michael Rost: 351

• Reese Hays: 308

• Will Olson: 100

• Nicholas Marlo: 39

The race featured only one incumbent — Amyx — although Chestnut is only two years removed from the commission. Voters, however, were open to new faces on Tuesday.

Farmer, 29, said economic issues continue to be a major theme he hears from residents.

“People want to be able to grow up here and retire here, and right now with the tax base and job situation, people are finding that difficult to do,” he said.

All of Tuesday’s results are unofficial. They won’t become official until election officials canvass — or make a final review — of the ballots on Monday. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said there were about 150 provisional ballots that still need to be added to the totals, but that number is not expected to make a difference in the outcome of the six candidates moving on to the general election.