A look at campaign donations received by Lawrence City Commission candidates
We’re in the heat of Lawrence City Commission campaign season, as the primary election is Tuesday. Perhaps you have noticed some of the slogans: “Hello, is this microphone on?” “Ill give you a free cookie if you come to my campaign rally.” And perhaps the best one is the simplest one. It isn’t a word at all. Instead, a big yawn may be the most appropriate image for this campaign.
This is the first year for a City Commission primary in August, and interest has been lackluster. We reported on Monday that advance voting for the election was “extremely low,” according to the County Clerk’s office. Only about 275 people had voted.
Candidates recently were required to turn in reports detailing their campaign contributions thus far, and those show lackluster interest as well. But it also shows that three candidates are in the lead when it comes to raising money, which many times can be a good indicator of who has momentum with voters. The top three money-raisers thus far are incumbents Lisa Larsen, Matthew Herbert and challenger Dustin Stumblingbear.
There is an asterisk to this: Candidate Christian Lyche missed the deadline and didn’t file the state-required campaign finance report, County Clerk Jamie Shew said. No word yet on why Lyche didn’t file the report.
Here’s a look, though, at the details of the reports for the other seven candidates in the race. The reports require candidates to state how much money they have received in contributions, and to identify whom the contributions came from, if the contributions are of a significant size. All the reports cover the time period from Jan. 1 through July 20.
• Lisa Larsen: Larsen was appointed to the commission in October 2015 to fill the unexpired term of Jeremy Farmer. So, this is her first campaign for the City Commission, and thus far she is the leader in collecting campaign donations. She raised $6,125 in contributions during the time period. The report shows about $500 came from herself or other people who shared her last name. She had three contributors give the maximum $500 amount: Philip Reihle, who is listed as a teacher from Lawrence; Sarah Merriman, a retired Lawrence resident; and Michael Wasikowski, a military analyst from Lawrence.
• Matthew Herbert: Herbert is seeking his second term on the City Commission. He finished third in the last election and received a two-year term as a result. He has raised $5,025 in contributions. He had two people give the maximum $500 amount: Wasikowski, the Lawrence military analyst who also gave to Larsen’s campaign; and Jack Graham, a Lawrence resident who is listed as a downtown property owner. City Hall watchers often look at these reports to see if businesses or people in the development industry who often are before City Hall for approvals have given to particular candidates. Thus far, the number of businesses giving sizable donations to campaigns has been limited in this primary season. But Herbert did receive contributions totaling $400 from three companies — Radol, LC, DSJ Corp., and Oread LC — controlled by the Duane Schwada family. Schwada is one of the largest developers in town, owning multiple apartment complexes and commercial centers, and is the leader of the group seeking to develop the commercial area around Rock Chalk Park.
• Dustin Stumblingbear: A retired Army veteran who is making his first run for the City Commission, has raised $3,406.23 in contributions. About $550 came from himself or from people who share his last name. Stumblingbear had one other contributor who gave the maximum $500. That was Wasikowski, the Lawrence military analyst who also gave to Larsen and Herbert.
• Mike Anderson: Anderson is making his second run for the City Commission, after falling short in the 2015 elections. He has raised $2,375 in contributions, including $1,500 from himself and others who share his last name. Anderson received $500 from the Cider Gallery, an arts and events space in East Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District.
• Bassem Chahine: Chahine unsuccessfully ran for the Douglas County Commission during the last election, and is making his first run for the City Commission. He has raised $2,000 in contributions. All of the money came from himself, according to the report.
• Ken Easthouse: Easthouse is making his first run for the City Commission. He has raised $1,100, with all of it coming from himself.
• Jennifer Ananda: Ananda is making her first run for the city City Commission. She has raised $814.56 in contributions. She gave herself $100. The bulk of her contributions — about $415 — were donations of $50 or less where she did not list the name of the donor, which is allowed by state law for small donations.
People can see the full campaign finance reports for each candidate at the Douglas County Clerk’s website at douglascountyks.org
As for details on the election, when voters go to the polls — either through advance ballots or on election day — they can vote for up to three candidates. Six of the eight candidates in the field will move onto the general election. The Nov. 7 general election will determine the winners of the three seats up for grabs on the five-member City Commission. The top two vote-winners receive four-year terms, and the third-place finisher receives a two-year term.