Tuesday's Democratic primary for the Douglas County Commission's First District seat, between incumbent Mike Gaughan and attorney Greg Robinson, features two approaches to how the county government should invest its money.
With no Republican challenger, the primary race could reorient the three-seat commission on several issues. The two other seats are held by a Republican and another Democrat.
Roberts champions a defense of taxpayers, saying property owners are overburdened and local governments give away too much in incentives to lure development.
Gaughan speaks of defending the county from the Legislature, while ensuring youth mental health programs remain funded and energy costs decrease.
Gaughan was first appointed to the commission in 2009 following the resignation of Charles Jones and was elected for a full term in 2010. He is a partner for Kansas Grassroots, a political consulting group focusing on progressive campaign issues.
After employment in the Army and Lawrence Police Department, Robinson has worked as a criminal defense and contract attorney for the city of Lawrence. In 2005, he lost a race for the Lawrence City Commission. He switched from Republican to Democrat 10 days before filing to run in the primary.
Robinson said he wants to curb tax incentives handed out to developers who express interest in Douglas County. He said too often the incentives do not pay off for local governments and taxpayers. He specifically identified the proposed $75 million apartment complex for Indiana Street as an example.
"Why? What are they going to give back to us?" he said.
Gaughan has not verbally condemned the practice. And at the Douglas County Commission meeting Wednesday, he and the rest of the commission approved a 10-year, 85 percent rebate for the Indiana Street project, although developers requested a 95 percent rebate over 12 years.
In a debate between the two candidates in early July, Gaughan also reaffirmed his commitment to the Douglas County Heritage Grant Program, which devotes county funds to projects that preserve the area's history and natural resources.
"It's been very successful," Gaughan said of the program. "One of the things I love about our community is our devotion to our heritage."
Robinson said in the same debate that there may be an occasion where he would support the grants, but in light of the recession and constraints placed on local governments by the Legislature, he would largely be opposed.
Both candidates identified mental health care as a social issue they'd like to focus on. In mid-July, Gaughan voted for a 2015 county budget that earmarked an extra $165,000 to the Bert Nash Mental Health Center for a program focusing on youth.
Robinson said of the issue: "Believe me, a lot of the people I deal with, and I can speak for many other attorneys, is that jail becomes the de facto Bert Nash center because there's no services for these folks."
In an interview Tuesday, Robinson also reiterated something he mentioned in the debate — that if elected he would ask that agencies, when appealing to the county for more funding, recommend where the county should slash funding to accommodate their request.
"It puts people in a position where they have to know the budget," he said.