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Speculation that retired health care executive and Lawrence neighborhood leader both will enter race for Lawrence City Commission
We’re dismissing questions about the upcoming Lawrence City Commission election like my wife dismisses my request to have access to our ATM PIN number.
First was whether the Lawrence City Commission race would have enough candidates for a primary? Yep. As we reported last week, there are now seven candidates in the race, which triggers a Feb. 26 primary to cut the field to six.
Next is whether any female candidates will enter the race? I’ve been told the answer soon will be yep and yep. I’ve been told to expect two female candidates to file before tomorrow’s noon deadline.
Leslie Soden, a former president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association and a founder of the Madre Lawrence group, confirmed to me that she will file her paperwork tomorrow morning.
Multiple sources also have told me that Judy Bellome, the recently retired chief executive officer of the Lawrence-based Visiting Nurses Association, plans to file for a seat on the commission.
Soden has contemplated making a run for the City Commission for the last several months, but a few weeks ago she told me she had decided against it. She said she was going to focus on her duties as a member of the newly created Joint Economic Development Council for Lawrence and Douglas County.
But she also told me at that time she was conflicted because she really does think there needs to be more diversity in the field of candidates.
Soden will bring a definite neighborhood perspective to the City Commission race. She has been deeply involved in neighborhood association issues over the last several years. She became more well-known in City Hall circles by serving as one of the main voices of opposition to the proposed multistory hotel/retail building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
I haven’t yet talked to Soden in enough detail to know her positions on several of the big issues, but the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, which Soden has been active in, has taken positions on a couple of the larger issues: the proposed $25 million recreation center and the expansion of the city’s rental registration and licensing program.
LAN took a position expressing concern about the proposed bidding procedures and other parts of the process related to the regional recreation center project. The association also came out in support of a major expansion of the city’s rental registration and licensing process for apartments. Don’t sleep on that issue. It will be a big one for apartment owners and real executives, who historically have been good at raising money for City Commission races.
As I noted last week, it will be interesting to see how large of an issue the recreation center project becomes in the race. It is very possible the current City Commission will make a commitment on the recreation center project in mid-February, a few days before the primary election.
But a couple of candidates — Mike Amyx and Reese Hays last week — both expressed concern about portions of the recreation center proposal during their campaign announcements. Will it be an issue for Soden? I don’t know. Perhaps the biggest question left in this race, other than who is going to win, is whether there are candidates who think this recreation center business is a political haymaker with voters. I’ve heard some people suggest this election could end up being an unofficial referendum on the recreation center project. I’ve heard others say that because the decision already will have been made that it is unlikely. We’ll see.
As for Bellome, I haven’t yet gotten in touch with her to confirm her plans. But she is well-known in the social service and health care arenas in the community, and has gotten to know many community leaders who have served on the board and volunteered for Visiting Nurses Association.
We’ll see if anybody else gets into the field before tomorrow’s filing deadline. The last election two years ago produced only five candidates, so already the interest level is quite a bit higher, for whatever reason. The general election is set for April 2.