Remind yourself who is on Tuesday’s City Commission ballot, plus see how much they’ve received in campaign donations
Tuesday is the last chance for voters to cast a ballot in the Lawrence City Commission primary. Last week, candidates were required to file campaign finance reports listing how much they have raised in contributions and also how much they have spent in campaign expenses.
As is often the case, the incumbents in the race are leading the way in both campaign contributions and spending. Commissioners Lisa Larsen and Stuart Boley were the only candidates to raise more than $10,000 in the period, which stretched from Jan. 1 through July 22.
Two newcomers, though, also posted relatively large numbers. Amber Sellers, a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission, raised more than $8,000, and Bart Littlejohn, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, raised more than $5,000. Everyone else in the field raised far less, with Milton Scott, a retired public housing administrator, the only other candidate to raise more than $1,000.
But Tuesday’s primary election is kind of like an Olympic qualifying heat — you don’t have to post your best number to be a winner. While voters will only be able to vote for three candidates, the top six vote winners will move onto to compete in the general election in November.
In other words, there certainly will be some candidates who didn’t raise much money who will make their way out of the primary.
Here’s a look at campaign filing information for each candidate, along with the one paragraph biography that City Hall Reporter Rochelle Valverde wrote on each candidate as part of our voter’s guide last month:
• Incumbent Stuart Boley, 66, is a retired auditor with the Internal Revenue Service. Boley has lived in Lawrence since 1983 and was elected to the City Commission in 2015 and served as mayor in 2018. In the upcoming term, Boley said he’d like to see the city continue its progress in providing excellent city services to Lawrence residents at a reasonable cost, and that continuing work on the commission’s new strategic plan and priority based budgeting process would be important in that effort. Boley said addressing homelessness in the community and the ongoing process of cleaning up environmental containments at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant would also be important.
Total contributions for the period: $10,275. Total campaign expenses for the period: $4,977
• Chris Flowers, 41, is a frequent public commenter and restaurant delivery driver. Flowers has lived in Lawrence since 1999. Flowers said what motivated him to run for the commission was his dissatisfaction with the bike boulevard the city recently created on 21st Street. Flowers said he doesn’t think the project was done right, and he wants changes to be made to improve it. He said other important issues for him are criminal justice reform, including ending the war on drugs, and identifying new ways to address the city’s affordable housing shortage. Flowers regularly attends City Commission and other local meetings and frequently speaks during the public comment periods.
Total contributions for the period: $0. Total campaign expenses for the period: $16
• Ma’Ko’Quah Jones, 40, is the Sustainability Advisory Board chair and community organizer. Jones, a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, is the founder and chair of the Kansas Democratic Party Native American Caucus, a coordinator with the League of Women Voters of Kansas, and a Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education board member. Jones worked until 2019 as the environmental/GIS technician for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and has been living in Lawrence since 2015. Jones said that important issues for her include environmental justice, support for social service organizations and bringing underrepresented members of the community into politics.
Total contributions for the period: $205. Total campaign expenses for the period: $0
• Incumbent Lisa Larsen, 61, is a retired environmental geologist who previously ran her own company. Larsen, who has lived in Lawrence since about 2000, was appointed by the City Commission to fill a vacancy in 2015 and ran to keep the seat in 2017. She finished with a significant lead over the other winning candidates and served as mayor in 2019. Issues that Larsen thinks will be key in the upcoming term are affordable housing, particularly distributing affordable housing projects more evenly throughout the city; stormwater management, particularly flooding in neighborhoods; and the remediation of environmental contamination at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant.
Total contributions for the period: $10,498. Total campaign expenses for the period: $4,237
• Bart Littlejohn, 44, is the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board chair and the former chair of the Pinckney Neighborhood Association. Littlejohn has lived in Lawrence since 1995 is currently the marketing manager for Pinnacle Technology Inc. and a member of the Douglas County Community Health Plan Steering Committee. Littlejohn was previously involved in Junior Achievement and the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. Littlejohn said important issues for him are equity, particularly the ability for everyone to have a healthy and a safe place to live; housing, particularly affordability, availability and homelessness; and economic development, including for those already living here, those graduating from college, and front-line workers.
Total contributions for the period: $5,888. Total campaign expenses for the period: $3,981
• Shawn Pearson, 50, is a recently returned Lawrence resident and businessman. Pearson is currently vice president of strategy at U.S. Bank, and he said that although his home office remains in Minneapolis, he decided to move back to Lawrence in February after his job allowed him to work remotely. Pearson has previously been a volunteer for the Special Olympics and the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentorship program. Pearson said important issues for him are police reform, which he said would be the important action the commission would take in the coming term; addressing environmental issues and climate change; and providing a high quality of life for everyone who lives in the community, regardless of background.
Pearson was not required to file a report because he’s signed an affidavit promising to spend and raise less than $1,000 for his campaign.
• Milton Scott, 59, is a community volunteer and retired public housing administrator. Scott has lived in Lawrence since 1980 and formerly worked for the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority and the Kansas City, Kan., Housing Authority. He currently serves as the treasurer of the faith-based advocacy group Justice Matters and has served as the chair of the Trustees’ Ministry at the Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church for several years, among other volunteer roles. Scott, who grew up in public housing, said important issues for him are addressing affordable housing and homelessness; high city utility rates and their impact on affordability; and infrastructure, particularly projects with high neighborhood impact.
Total contributions for the period: $1,438. Total campaign expenses for the period: $2,207.
• Amber Sellers, 40, is Human Relations Commission Chair and a member of the local League of Women Voters. Sellers, who previously lived in Lawrence for about 10 years before relocating for work, returned to Lawrence in 2019. She is currently a regulation specialist with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Bureau of Family Health, where she works on public policy affecting women and children. Sellers said important issues for her are affordable housing and the need to develop a citywide plan to address shortages; economic development and the need to retrain and reposition people in the community who can help meet employment needs; and the need to focus on what she called “human infrastructure,” such as affordable child care.
Total contributions for the period: $8,046. Total campaign expenses for the period: $2,725
One other name will appear on the city commission ballot, Gillian Rogers Shaw. However, Shaw has told the Journal-World she is not running an active campaign for the seat. She was not required to file a campaign finance report after she pledged to not exceed the $1,000 threshold.
In case you are wondering, I’m not ignoring the campaign finance reports of school board members. Instead, there are just none to report. They were not required to file their reports last week. Instead, they must file later in the year. However, most of the candidates have pledged to spend less than the $1,000 amount that sparks the report.