Only Republican candidate drops out of 2nd District Douglas County Commission race, endorses incumbent Democrat

photo by: Contributed photo

Brett LaRue

The only Republican in the race for the Douglas County Commission 2nd District seat has dropped out.

Brett LaRue announced in a Thursday news release that he was “withdrawing” his candidacy and endorsing incumbent Commissioner Nancy Thellman.

However, LaRue’s name will remain on the ballot. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said LaRue’s name must appear because the withdrawal date had already passed.

“While my name will remain on the November ballot due to the fact that the deadline to withdraw was June 1, I will not be doing any campaigning or further press releases,” LaRue said in a text message to the Journal-World.

Without LaRue, the race has three Democrats campaigning for the position: Shannon Reid, Sara Taliaferro and Thellman. Primary elections are scheduled for Aug. 4.

LaRue, who is a retired law enforcement officer, said his main purpose for joining the race was to oppose the controversial expansion of the Douglas County Jail. He said the money being used for the $29.6 million expansion project would be better spent addressing mental health issues in the community.

Although Thellman voted to approve the jail expansion, LaRue said he had a recent conversation with her and found that she was receptive to his concerns, adding that he will be voting for her.

“Let me tell you, I was blown away with our conversation,” LaRue said. “Commissioner Thellman seemed very receptive to my input regarding concern over the jail expansion, and I truly think she will be much more receptive to alternatives to building the jail in the future.”

Although all three county commissioners — Michelle Derusseau, Patrick Kelly and Thellman — voted to approve the expansion in January, Kelly recently said that the reality of the project had changed since that vote. Those changes include the significant drop in the jail’s inmate population and the likely decline in the county’s sales tax revenues, both of which stem from the coronavirus pandemic.

The commissioners agreed to have further discussions on the viability of the project. Kelly specifically said he wanted to discuss the project with City of Lawrence officials after members of the City Commission said their approval of a permit for the project was “not an endorsement.”

While supporting more conversations, Thellman said at the time that the commissioners needed to move forward with transparency and integrity while keeping Douglas County residents’ best interests at heart.

“It makes me hopeful that if we had this wrong, we own it and fix it,” she said.

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