Friday, April 06, 2007

Kansas: More on the east-west split in the Lawrence City Commission election

By Diane Silver

Final analysis of Tuesday's election shows that the Lawrence vote did indeed break down on an east-west line. The generally wealthier and whiter west side got out and voted in higher numbers than the east side did.

The west backed Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut, the real estate developers' candidates of choice, and Dever and Chestnut came in first and second. The east generally backed the progressive candidates, Boog Highberger, David Schauner and Carey Maynard-Moody, and only Boog pulled out an anemic third-place victory.

Why was the west motivated and the east side not? The newspaper provides a mismash of answers, none of which add up to much.

Perhaps, there are no clear answers, but I do wonder.

Two years ago the same-sex marriage ban was on the ballot and turnout throughout the county was far higher. (more than 38 percent compared to nearly 19 percent on Tuesday) The marriage ban was defeated in every precinct in town. That hot-button issue may well have driven more liberal voters, and possibly more east siders, to the polls.

The demise of the Progressive Lawrence Campaign PAC, which had a good get-out-the-vote operation didn't help. This is the first election since 2001 where the PLC was not part of the campaign, and look at where the turnout went.

In 1999 and before the PLC became active, turnout throughout the county was 23 percent. In 2001, turnout was at 19 percent. After PLC's entry onto the scene, voter turnout was pushed to 33 percent in 2003, and that was without a hot-button issue like the marriage ban.

What's clear is that progressives need to get back to the basics of politics in Lawrence and bring back what the PLC brought to local campaigns: More get out of the vote, more communications, and yup, more money.

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