LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk
Taking stock of Tuesday's City Commission election and wondering how school bond and recreation center issues will affect the general election
I think I’ve finally shaken the snow from my ballot box, so, how about some news and notes left over from Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission primary election?
• Getting it Done Early: For the first time in memory, there were more people who cast advance ballots than who went to the polls on Election Day. According to the unofficial numbers, 2,910 cast advance ballots, while 2,480 cast ballots on Election Day.
• A Bond Bounce: The talk at the Courthouse Tuesday night quickly turned to how different the April 2 General Election will be from the lightly attended primary election. The main reason is because there will be a $92.5 million school bond issue. Everyone expects that issue to do far more to drive voters to the polls than anything the City Commission is expected to do in the coming weeks.
How big of a bounce may it create in terms of voters? Well, there were 5,390 voters in Tuesday’s primary. The last time the Lawrence school district had a bond issue election was in April 2005. That bond issue drew nearly 21,000 voters. There easily could be 15,000 new voters coming to the polls in April. It could be argued that Tuesday’s primary election may be a poor predictor of how the general election will shape up. But primary elections traditionally have had a pretty good crystal ball quality to them. In 2005 — despite more than 10,000 new voters coming to the polls in the general election — the top three winners in the primary election all ended up in the top three in the general election.
But the possible scenarios this time around will be good for political conversation over the next several weeks.
• A Geography Lesson: I’ve put together a very quick and lazy analysis of voter returns. (Descriptions like that are why a career in marketing has never worked out for me.) Last night I got a breakdown of the vote by precincts. I’ve quickly made a list of how many precincts each candidate won. That’s interesting but don’t read too much into it because several of the precincts were only separated by three or four votes. It also is worth remembering that the precinct totals only include Election Day votes. Advance votes have been counted but haven’t yet been added in on a precinct by precinct basis.
Anyway, here’s what I found: Mike Amyx, the top vote winner, won or tied for first in 24 precincts. They were spread out all over the city. Just try finding an area of town that Amyx didn’t have some success in. Jeremy Farmer, the second place winner, won or tied for first in eight precincts. He also had victories in a wide area, including both in eastern and western Lawrence. Scott Criqui, the fifth-place winner, won or tied for first in five precincts. They all appeared to be in either central or East Lawrence. Rob Chestnut, the fourth-place winner, won four precincts. They all appeared to be in west Lawrence. Leslie Soden, the sixth-place winner, won or tied for first in three precincts. East and central Lawrence were her wheelhouse. Terry Riordan, the third-place vote winner, won or tied for first in just two precincts. But as the overall results would suggest, he didn’t do poorly in really any region.
• The Recreation Center: So, what did this primary election say about how voters feel about the proposed $25 million city recreation center? Beats me. Amyx was the top vote winner, and he has been expressing a lot of concerns about the project. He has called for a public vote on the issue. But the second- and third-place winners, Farmer and Riordan, both have been generally supportive of the project.
Chestnut, in fourth, hasn’t really landed in one camp or the other, although he has raised some questions about the financial aspects of the proposal.
The fifth- and sixth-place finishers, Criqui and Soden, both have expressed multiple concerns with the recreation center project and the lack of a public election on the issue.
What will be interesting to see is how big of an issue the recreation center will be in the general election. Here’s one thought: Historically, fifth- and sixth-place finishers have had a tough row to hoe to break into the top three of the general election. I wonder if Criqui and Soden will try to make the recreation center issue more prominent to give their campaigns a jolt of momentum with new voters. I have no clue what their strategies will be, but I’ll be watching to see if candidates start running ads and such around the issue.
Amyx told me last night that he’s confident the recreation center will be an issue, even though the City Commission is expected to issue bids for the project before the April 2 election. But here’s an important thing to remember about that: It will be the next City Commission that will be asked to approve those construction bids for the project.
“You can’t have something that has been all the talk for the last several months to suddenly just not be an issue,” Amyx said. “It needs to be an issue because the next commission will be involved with it a lot.”