Anderson leads the pack in recent campaign donations, but most wallets stay closed this City Commission election season

Six candidates are vying for Lawrence City Commission seats this fall. At top, from left: Lisa Larsen, Matthew Herbert and Dustin Stumblingbear. At bottom, from left: Jennifer Ananda, Mike Anderson and Bassem Chahine.

We are in the final days of the campaign for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission. That means it is time to count the money. Campaign finance reports have been filed, and the big story is there is a lot less money to count.

We started to see the trend two years ago that the amount of money being raised by candidates was shrinking some. Candidates may be spending more time reaching voters on social media rather than fundraising. Plus, there have been some examples of where campaign donations probably have hurt some candidates more than helped. There’s certainly a subset of voters who view campaign donations from developers and others in the growth industry as a negative.

Whatever the case (I don’t think it is the Russians, by the way), campaign donations are down. Consider this: As you will see in a moment, the top fundraiser during this last funding cycle garnered a little more than $5,000. Ten years ago, there were two candidates (Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut) who each raised more than $20,000 for their primary election, then raised significant amounts for the general election. A shift has occurred.

Here’s a look at campaign totals for the reporting period that runs from July 21 through Oct. 26:

Mike Anderson was the top fundraiser with $5,693 in donations. The former television host picked up an endorsement from the local Realtors group, which comes with a $500 donation from its political action committee and also usually leads to other individual donations from that industry. Anderson has ground to make up. He finished fifth in the primary election, and only the top three vote winners in Tuesday’s election win a seat. During the primary, he raised $2,375. He now has a total for the season of $8,086. Among his top donors during this most recent period were $500 from the Kansas Realtors Political Action Committee; $500 from former City Commissioner Aron Cromwell; $500 from Michael Wasikowski, a military analyst from Lawrence; $350 from Lawrence developer Jon Davis; $250 from former arts center director Susan Tate; and $150 from former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who is a Lawrence resident.

City Commissioner Lisa Larsen raised $3,245. Larsen was the top vote-winner in the primary election. She raised a little more than $6,000 in the primary election, bringing her $9,370 for the season. Among her top contributors in the most recent period: $500 from Lawrence resident and teacher Philip Riehle; $250 from Lawrence attorney Jerry Harper; $200 from Lawrence restaurant and bar owners Rick and Nancy Renfro; and $400 from retired Lawrence resident Sarah Merriman. Also of note is that Larsen, a retired geologist who used to own her own business in Lawrence, is self-funding a good part of her campaign. She lists more than $2,300 of in-kind donations from herself to pay for advertising and other campaign expenses.

City Commissioner Matthew Herbert was third in fundraising with $3,050. Herbert, a Lawrence teacher and owner of a rental real estate company, was the second-place vote winner in the primary. He raised $5,025 in the primary season, bringing his total to $8,075. Among his top contributors: $500 from the Kansas Realtors PAC, which endorsed him; $500 from Michael Herbert, CEO of Delta Dental; $250 from Tom Carmody, president of an entertainment company; $250 from Tate, former director of the Arts Center; and $100 from Mike Bosch, who owns an area broadband fiber company.

Dustin Stumblingbear was fourth with $2,352. Stumblingbear, a retired Army veteran, was third in the primary election. He raised about $3,400 in the primary, giving him $5,758 for the season. Among his top contributors were: $500 from the United Transportation Union PAC; $200 from Lawrence attorney Jerry Harper and his wife, Nancy; $200 from retired Lawrence resident Stephen Ellsworth.

Jennifer Ananda was fifth with $1,977. Ananda, who works in KU’s Title IX office, was fourth in the primary election. For the campaign season she has raised a total of $2,791. Among her top contributors: $200 from Lawrence attorney Jerry Harper and his wife, Nancy; $125 from former City Commissioner Mike Rundle; $100 from Lawrence residents Steve Lopes and Lois Orth-Lopes; and $100 from Lawrence resident Daniel Poull.

Bassem Chahine raised $820 in the period, and $700 of it came from himself. Chahine, who owns a tobacco and importing business in Lawrence, finished sixth in the primary.

You can see the full reports for each candidate on the Douglas County Clerk’s site, located here. The election is Tuesday.

Related stories: Voter Guide for the 2017 Lawrence City Commission Election