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New Lawrence PAC raises $14K as City Commission election draws near; Farmer top candidate fundraiser at $11K
The largest fundraiser during the heat of this year’s Lawrence City Commission race wasn’t a candidate. It was the newly formed political action committee Lawrence United.
According to new reports filed at the Douglas County clerk’s office, the Lawrence United group raised $14,400 during the key Feb. 15 through March 21 reporting period.
The group raised all of its money from just 10 donors. Lawrence builder Tim Stultz and Blue Jacket Ford LLC — a development company headed by construction owner Roger Johnson — both donated $5,000 apiece to the PAC.
Three companies that include Thomas Fritzel, the Lawrence businessman driving the public-private partnership for Rock Chalk Park, gave a total of $3,000 to the PAC. Lawrence-based McGrew Real Estate also donated $1,000 to the PAC. All the other donations received by the group were at the $200 level or less.
The pro-business PAC has endorsed candidates Rob Chestnut, Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan.
Those three candidates also did well in their individual fundraising efforts. Farmer, the political newcomer who serves as the CEO of the Lawrence food bank Just Food, raised the most money of the six candidates in the race: $11,265. Farmer finished second in last month’s primary election.
Rob Chestnut, the CFO for a Topeka publishing company, raised $8,949 during the period. Chestnut was fourth in the primary election. Only the top three vote winners in the April 2 general election will receive a seat on the commission.
City Commissioner Mike Amyx, the lone incumbent in the race, raised $5,960. The downtown barbershop owner is seeking his fifth term on the commission. He was the top vote winner in the primary.
Terry Riordan, a Lawrence pediatrician, raised $5,315 from supporters. Riordan also contributed $9,000 of his own money to the campaign. When combined with a similar loan Riordan made to his campaign during the primary season, Riordan has now invested more than $18,000 of his own money in the campaign. Riordan finished third in last month’s primary election.
Scott Criqui, an executive with Lawrence’s Trinity In-Home Care, raised $4,555. He was fifth in last month’s primary.
Leslie Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet care business, raised $2,718. Soden was sixth in the primary election.
The Lawrence United Group gave $500 each to Chestnut, Farmer and Riordan. (Note: In a previous article, Riordan had told me the group gave him $100. But Riordan called me this weekend to tell me he had misspoken then. He quoted that number off memory and realized the amount was $500 when he looked at his records.)
But the group’s bigger impact on the race is that it has sent out several mailings urging support of the three candidates it has endorsed. Businesses and individuals are limited to making contributions of no more than $500 to any candidate during any one reporting period. Individuals and businesses, however, can make unlimited contributions to PACs, and the PACs can spend as much money as they choose advocating for a candidate.
Lawrence has had other PACs in the past. In the 1990s, a group called Progressive Lawrence campaigned for candidates who it thought would give the neighborhoods more of a voice in the City Hall process. Progressive Lawrence no longer exists, but there are other organizations that are in the political giving business. The plumbers and pipefitters union — it is based out of Wichita but has operations here — gave $200 each to Chestnut and Amyx, according to the latest reports. And the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, based out of Washington, D.C., gave $500 to Criqui. Criqui has been a frequent advocate for greater equality for the LGBT community.
But this year, Lawrence United sure appears to be the most active and best funded political organization operating in the City Commission race.
There is a question among campaign watchers, however, whether the PAC’s support will help more than it hurts. Thus far, the PAC largely has been supported by business interests in the community.
That has put some candidates at recent events emphasizing that they won’t be beholden to any special interests if elected.
“I have told people that if I have to choose a side to win an election, I would rather lose the election,” Farmer said during a forum hosted by Lawrence’s 6News last night.
Farmer went on to say that he clearly doesn’t equate taking a donation from any group as creating an expectation that he’ll vote in any particular manner, if on the commission.
“My integrity is not for sale,” Farmer said.
At the Monday night forum, Riordan said he thought some people had “overblown” the importance of the group’s endorsement. He said he consented to the endorsement because he and the group agree on the importance of creating sustainable jobs in Lawrence.
“They will have my attention in the future, but everybody else will too,” Riordan said.
Chestnut said he also supported the group’s main message on jobs, but he said he doesn’t “know that much about Lawrence United.”
It will be interesting to see what the final week of the campaign brings from the PAC in terms of advertising. At the end of the reporting period, March 21, Lawrence United still had about $20,000 in its coffers.
The complete reports for all the candidates are available for viewing and show the names and amounts of contributors. You can find them here:
• To see Amyx's report, click here.
• To see Chestnut's report, click here.
• To see Criqui's report, click here.
• To see Farmer's report, click here.
• To see Riordan's report, click here.
• To see Soden's report, click here.
• To see Lawrence United's report, click here.