2020 Voters Guide: Democrat Shannon Reid appears likely to win Douglas County Commission seat; Republican who previously withdrew won’t say whether he’s actively campaigning
photo by: contributed photo
After a long and drawn-out count of the votes in the Democratic primary election, candidate Shannon Reid appears likely to fill the 2nd District seat for the Douglas County Commission.
However, her name won’t be the only one on the ballot when voters take to the polls on Nov. 3.
Reid, 35, defeated incumbent Commissioner Nancy Thellman and challenger Sara Taliaferro in the Democratic primary election, but it took weeks for all the votes to be counted and recounted to know the final result.
Reid’s opposition to the county’s plan to expand its jail facility was what inspired her to run. Thellman, who was challenged by two candidates who opposed the project, had voted to approve the plan in January.
After it was clear Reid had won the Democratic primary, Brett LaRue, Republican candidate for the seat, would not commit to staying out of the race. In June, LaRue said he was “withdrawing” from the race and endorsed Thellman. He said at the time he joined the race to oppose the jail expansion as well.
But it’s unclear what LaRue’s status is now. While state law requires his name to appear on the ballot, he would not respond to the Journal-World’s repeated requests to clarify whether he was actively campaigning. Reid said LaRue had not responded to her requests either.
Despite the confusion, Reid said she is prepared to fill the seat and work toward a more equitable community. While her opposition to the jail project was what inspired her to run for office, she said she believes her experience as an advocate translates well to representing the voters who elected her. She currently works for the Willow Domestic Violence Center, where she serves as the coordinator for the organization’s court advocacy program.
“My goals as a Commissioner are focused on listening actively to vulnerable voices and addressing the gaps in equity that exist for marginalized folks across Douglas County,” she said in an email. “Now is the time to stay focused on issues of more justice for more people.”
Reid identifies herself as a progressive candidate. She was one of three candidates for county positions who formed a coalition called the “Justice Ticket” — which also included Shannon Portillo, the Democratic candidate for the commission’s 3rd District seat, and Cooper Overstreet, who lost a three-way Democratic primary race for Douglas County district attorney. The group’s platform focused on issues related to criminal justice, housing and climate change.
Reid said being a progressive candidate means she believes it is necessary to constantly work on evolving what she knows, what she thinks and how she acts.
“Progressivism to me is about centering systematically oppressed voices in all discourse, acknowledging the harm done, then moving forward toward equitable change,” she said. “(And) also having the humility to acknowledge we know better now then we did before, (and) therefore we must do better now.”
Reid has spent most of her life in Lawrence. She graduated from Lawrence High School in 2003. She currently lives in Lawrence’s Prairie Park neighborhood with her partner, Bobbi Henson.
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