Meet the Democratic candidates for Douglas County Commission District 1

Share this post or save for later

Every registered voter may cast their ballot in the Aug. 2 election — it is a primary, but there is a constitutional amendment question on the ballot that means all voters, even those who are unaffiliated or registered as Libertarians, may vote.

But voters in the first Douglas County commission district who are registered as Democrats — or unaffiliated voters who request Democratic ballots — will decide which candidate should advance to the general election.


We wanted to give you a chance to learn more about the human side of your candidates. So we asked some standard questions related to their run for office and the issues they want to address — but also some fun questions to let folks get to know their candidates as people, not just politicians.

We have only received responses from Patrick Kelly, the incumbent commissioner, as of publication time. Attempts to reach candidate Dustin Stumblingbear, who filed to run for the seat in January, have been unsuccessful. We will update this post if we receive his answers.

We will extend the opportunity to participate in this questionnaire to the Libertarian and Republican candidates running for the commission seat closer to the Nov. 8 general election.

Stumblingbear is a member of the board of Independence Inc., according to his candidacy filing form. He was also a member of the city’s government study task force. He ran for Lawrence City Commission in 2017 and 2019. In coverage of his 2017 run, the student newspaper of Haskell Indian Nations University, The Indian Leader, reported that Stumblingbear, Kiowa, has lived in Lawrence most of his life and wanted to give back to the community. According to that article, Stumblingbear is a veteran who did two tours in Iraq, and he interned for Kansas Rep. Boog Highberger.

Get all the details you need about how to cast your ballot at this link.

Will this race be on my ballot?

The 1st District, depicted in pink on the map below, is geographically the smallest commission district. It contains a large portion of central Lawrence. The district is not square, but its southernmost boundary is West 19th Street; its easternmost boundary is Massachusetts Street; one segment of the district reaches as far west as Wakarusa Drive; and an intricate boundary divides the northern side of town between the first, second and third districts.

If you’re not sure whether you’re in the first district, you can input your name and date of birth at this link on the secretary of state’s website to look up your voter information.


Meet Patrick Kelly (he/him), incumbent

Patrick Kelly

Age: 52
Occupation: Educator
Hometown/time in Lawrence: I grew up in Long Beach, California, and have lived in Lawrence since 1989 except for a few years when I lived in Topeka.
Links: Website, Facebook, Twitter
Contact: or 785-843-8635

Tell us a little bit about your educational and/or occupational background?

Kelly: I attended the University of Kansas and was a teacher at West Junior High, Hillcrest Elementary and Free State High School. After moving to educational administration, I was an associate principal at Free State High School before establishing the Lawrence College & Career Center. Today I work for the Lawrence Public Schools as the Chief Academic Officer.

Why do you believe voters should choose you for the office of Douglas County commissioner?

Kelly: I have been fortunate to serve the Douglas County Community for over a decade in both appointed and elected roles. During that time my focus has been on bringing people together to solve our most daunting challenges including workforce development, public health, housing, mental health, land use, and more. Positive progress requires honest, principled, and inclusive leadership. That approach — to listen, understand, and then collaboratively problem solve, combined with my experience as a community leader in a variety of sectors — has positioned me to continue to lead our community forward. I am proud of the leadership I have provided Douglas County and recognize there is still work to do. I am grateful to those in the community to recognize those skills and put their confidence and trust in me to lead our community.

As noted above, attempts to reach candidate Dustin Stumblingbear have been unsuccessful. We will update this post if we receive his answers.

Issues and ballot measures

Please share what you think are the top 3 most pressing concerns facing Douglas County, and, briefly, what you think should be done to address them.

Kelly: 1. Recent homeless and supportive housing needs assessments confirmed that more affordable and permanent supportive housing options are needed, especially for those who are 65+ or have developmental disabilities. We need a more complete picture of those experiencing homeless, but we know there are shocking racial and gender disparities. Moving forward we need a collaborative effort. Douglas County recently allocated over $10M to community partners for supportive housing and homeless projects – the largest investment in our community’s history. We still have far to go to meet the need in Douglas County, but working together we are making progress to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to lead a safe, healthy and productive life.

2. With the opening of the Treatment and Recovery Campus we see tangible evidence of Douglas County’s commitment to mental health care, including substance abuse. These investments, along with speciality drug court, mental health court and other alternatives to incarceration, demonstrate our promise to restorative practices that have reduced our jail population and paved the road to recovery and reintegration for those in need. We must continue to work with our partners across complex systems to ensure that every member of our community is treated with dignity and respect and expand our use of data to identify and address bias and system racism in an effort to reduce the disparities we see across our justice and mental health systems.

3. We must continue to expand our definition of economic development to be more inclusive, especially for those populations who historically have not had equal access to opportunity. There is excitement about recent employer development in Lawrence and the region, but we cannot forget the needs of families and workers, including resources for workforce development, early childhood education and care for our seniors. Quality early childhood education is a precursor to lifelong success for the child and helps working parents stay in or re-enter the workforce. As our senior population grows we need to make sure supports are available so seniors can “age-in-place”, empowering them to remain socially engaged and maintain dignity and independence.

How do you plan to vote on the constitutional amendment that will be on Aug. 2 ballots (regarding abortion in Kansas)?

Kelly: No

Douglas County voters this November will decide whether the commission should be expanded to five districts.

Please briefly explain where you stand on this issue? What do you see as the potential benefits and/or drawbacks to adding two commission districts?

(Read more about this issue at this link.)

Kelly: As a current Douglas County Commissioner I work for just over 120,000 people and the district that I represent has 40,000 people. My aspiration is that those who live in Douglas County will take the time to learn about their current representative form of local government and consider impacts that moving from 3 to 5 commissioners will have. For example, it will allow 2 commissioners to talk to each other outside of our public meetings. Additional commissioners will require additional staff time to support which may have an increased cost. We currently have a number of ways that the public can share their perspective with commissioners, but additional commissioners may allow for more perspectives to be considered and will allow for more votes to be cast on each item. The population of Lawrence is just over 97,000, so creating 5 equal size contiguous districts without including some portion of Lawrence may be challenging. If it were possible, having 4 commissioners from within Lawrence and one who was elected by our other municipalities and the unincorporated area may create other concerns.

As we look ahead to the vote on the number of commissioners and my role as a Douglas County Commissioner on the future commission, I think it is important to refrain from declaring my position. I look forward to listening to the hopes and concerns of everyone in Douglas County and working with 2 or 4 commissioners, whatever our community decides, to determine how best to serve our community.

Just for fun

We did not require answers to any of the following questions. As noted above, attempts to reach candidate Dustin Stumblingbear have been unsuccessful. We will update this post if we receive his answers.

Is there anything you’d like to share about your family and/or pets?

Kelly: I’m inspired everyday by my wife, Amy. She is amazing. I have two wonderful children. Brynn, who attends college and is studying musical theatre and Victoria, who just moved back to the area with her wife, Erin. Our home is currently “petless” as we had to say goodbye to our 16 year old dog Bruno in June.

Favorite color?

Kelly: Shamrock Green

Favorite animal?

Kelly: I love all animals. Except peacocks.

Favorite hobbies/pastimes?

Kelly: I enjoy performing with family and friends in local community theatre productions.

Zodiac sign?

Kelly: Taurus

What’s one of your favorite books, and why?

Kelly: Leadership on the Line by Marty Linsky and Ronald Heifetz — It changed the way I looked at challenges and the people who are working to change the status quo.

What’s one of your favorite movies, and why?

Kelly: Big Fish. I love the visuals of this movie and the power of stories and storytellers to unlock our dreams. My favorite quote from the movie is “You’re not necessarily supposed to believe it … You’re just supposed to believe in it.”

What’s one of your favorite songs, and why?

Kelly: Not fair. As a musician and a music teacher this is REALLY difficult. So much greatness. Let’s go with a jazz favorite — Giant Steps by John Coltrane. So groundbreaking and an incredible talent.

Name any person living or dead who you would like to take out to dinner. Why, and where would you take them to eat?

Kelly: My dad. He died unexpectedly just after I got out of college. I would love to hear his thoughts on being a husband, a dad and a public servant. We would go to the Claim Jumper in Long Beach, California where he used to take us as kids. (Not crying. That’s just something in my eye.)

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your potential constituents that we did not already ask in this survey?

Kelly: It is an honor to serve the people of Douglas County. I’m inspired by their engagement, passion and compassion everyday. I truly enjoy working for them and trying to make the best decisions for our community.

Cast your ballot in the Aug. 2 election

You can quickly request an advance ballot to be mailed to you at The last day to request a mail ballot is July 26.

To see what’s on the ballot, visit this link. For information about voting early in person, visit this link. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

* We are not election workers *

Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.

More coverage: August 2 Election


Previous Article

Three family members, formerly of Lawrence, killed in ‘senseless’ shooting in Iowa

Next Article

Kansas vote on abortion raises stakes for marginalized communities, advocates say