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Lawrence election guide: Get to know the city commission and school board candidates

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Reposted with updates from our Oct. 21 guide; updated Nov. 6 to add audio:

Here’s a final roundup of our election coverage intended to help Lawrence voters find what they need to know to choose their top candidates for Lawrence City Commission and the Lawrence school board.

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Three out of five city commission seats and five out of seven school board seats will be on the ballot for the Tuesday, Nov. 7 general election. The people elected to these local offices make some of the decisions that reach closest to home.

For instance, commissioners decide on things such as homelessness programs, affordable housing and the recent safe haven ordinance; school board members vote on things such as student discipline programsteacher, staff and superintendent pay; district budget cuts; and school closures.

Still, less than a quarter of voters tend to vote in these local races. The 2019 city election saw 24.58% voter turnout, and the 2021 race just 22.24%.

Below are links to stories about candidate forums, many with video or audio recordings. Voters can hone in on the issues that matter most to them and choose their representatives accordingly.

Jump to a section: Lawrence City Commission | Lawrence school board

First, some need-to-know voting info:

How to cast your ballot

Vote early in person: Early voting will be available from 8 a.m. to noon Monday, Nov. 6 at the county elections office, 711 W. 23rd St., Suite 1 in Lawrence. You will need a driver’s license or valid ID to cast your ballot in person.

Vote on Election Day: Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7. Voters will need to report to their assigned polling places to vote on Election Day. Find out where to go by inputting your information or searching for an address at myvoteinfo.voteks.org/voterview. You will need a driver’s license or valid ID to cast your ballot in person.

Find more information about voting in Douglas County on the county’s website. If you have questions, you can email elections@douglascountyks.org or call 785-832-5267.

Vote by mail: If you requested a mail ballot, it must be postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 7, to be counted.

You can also drop off your ballot in person anytime before 7 p.m. Tuesday at one of the secure dropboxes: at the Douglas County courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.; at the county treasurer’s annex, 2000 W. 31st St., Suite B; or at the county elections office, 711 W. 23rd St., Suite 1. You can also take your ballot to any polling place on Election Day; click here to see a list.

Lawrence City Commission

Lawrence City Commission seats are nonpartisan, and commissioners are paid ($22,044 each in 2022).

Three candidates will be elected to serve four-year terms on the commission. Candidates are Justine Burton, Mike Dever, Brad Finkeldei (incumbent), Amber Sellers (incumbent), Courtney Shipley (incumbent) and Dustin Stumblingbear.

Voters can choose up to three candidates on their ballots.

Kansas Audio-Reader has recorded an audio version of this article:

• Final questions for the candidates – Nov. 2

In our final questionnaire, candidates discuss the performance of the current commission and city manager, appointments to city boards, whether they regret any votes, and more. All six candidates participated.

• Downtown Lawrence Inc. forum – Sept. 28

Candidates answered questions touching on issues that are key to many members of Downtown Lawrence Inc., the “nonprofit organization dedicated to the enrichment, preservation, and promotion of Downtown Lawrence as the cultural and commercial heart of the community.” All six candidates participated.

• Lawrence, Kansas Branch NAACP, Black:30 and Loud Light forum – Oct. 7

Candidates shared their views on community oversight of police, how to engage marginalized people and more during the final forum of this election cycle. Dever, Shipley, Burton, Stumblingbear and Sellers participated. Video recording embedded.

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• Lawrence Sustainability Action Network questionnaire – Oct. 30

Candidates discuss single-use plastic bans, city growth, multimodal transportation and more in these questionnaire answers from Sustainability Action Network.

• League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County + Lawrence Public Library forum – Oct. 2

Lawrence city commission candidates spoke on renewable energy and efforts to collaborate with the Lawrence school district and Douglas County. Dever, Shipley, Burton, Stumblingbear and Finkeldei participated, and Seller’s answers were read for her. Video recording embedded.

• Lawrence Board of Realtors and Lawrence Home Builders Association forum – Sept. 20

Lawrence has a long way to go from a housing standpoint, Lawrence City Commission candidates generally agree. Burton, Dever, Shipley, Stumblingbear and Finkeldei participated. In addition, check out the candidates’ responses to the LBOR questionnaires at this link. Audio recording embedded.

Lawrence Chamber of Commerce forum – Oct. 4

Lawrence City Commission candidates answered a variety of business-related questions as part of this forum: cultivating business and attracting new jobs, shifting more of the tax base to commercial and industrial, and more. Finkeldei, Shipley, Stumblingbear, Burton and Dever participated. Also check out the chamber’s candidate questionnaires at this link. Audio recording embedded.

• North Lawrence Improvement Association forum – Oct. 4

The group discussed topics including the lack of a North Lawrence grocery store, safety in the neighborhood and code enforcement concerns, expanding the Lawrence Regional Airport and property tax relief. Dever, Burton, Shipley, Finkeldei and Stumblingbear participated. Audio recording embedded.

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Pre-primary forums and questionnaires:

Note: These forums and questionnaires were held and completed before the primary election. Candidates Chris Flowers and Joshua Olafson were eliminated in the Aug. 1 primary.

• Lawrence Chamber of Commerce questionnaire – July 31

The commission candidates answer questions about their experience, the city-county strategic plan to reach functional zero homelessness, and how they prioritize developing home ownership opportunities. All six general election candidates participated.

• Lawrence, Kansas branch NAACP forum – July 8

Seven Lawrence City Commission candidates during a public forum on Saturday afternoon answered questions about housing, homelessness and economic issues that are pressing for the city. Stumblingbear, Sellers, Burton, Finkeldei and Shipley participated, and Dever’s answers were read for him. Video recording embedded.

• Douglas County Democratic Party forum – July 8

Candidates shared the issues that they’re most excited to address if they’re elected to serve. All six general election candidates participated.

Lawrence school board

Lawrence school board seats are nonpartisan, volunteer positions.

This year’s school board election is an unusual one. It includes four seats for candidates who will serve four-year terms, and one seat for candidates to serve out the unexpired two years of the term of a board member who resigned to move out of state.

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Two candidates, Shannon Kimball (incumbent) and Ariel Miner, are running for the two-year term. Voters can only vote for one of the two on their ballots.

The other candidates, Carole Cadue-Blackwood (incumbent), Anne Costello, Yolanda Franklin, GR Gordon-Ross (incumbent), Edward Gonzales, Jody Meyer, Brandon Moore and Rachel Stumblingbear, are running to serve four-year terms. Voters will be able to vote for up to four of those candidates on their ballots. (Kevin Coronado’s name will also appear on the ballot despite his choice to remove himself from the race.)

Beyond the unusual number of seats on the ballot, this election also follows two tense years of budget cuts and the closures of KennedyBroken Arrow and Pinckney elementary schools.

Although there was a primary election to narrow the candidates running for the two-year seat, there was no primary in the race for four-year terms to illuminate how the general election might go.

Kansas Audio-Reader has recorded an audio version of this article:

• Final questions for the candidates – Nov. 2

In our final questionnaire, candidates share their views on transgender athletes in school sports, compensation for board service, the performance of the board and superintendent, and more. All but two candidates participated.

• Lawrence, Kansas Branch NAACP, Black:30 and Loud Light forum – Oct. 7

Candidates discussed issues they feel are most pressing to the school district and how they’d like to address them. Video recording embedded.

• Lawrence High School Student Voices at the Center forum – Oct. 18

Lawrence High School journalism leaders asked candidates about student bonds with teachers amid turnover and supporting students’ mental health needs. Video recording embedded.

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• Lawrence Chamber of Commerce forum – Oct. 11

Candidates gave their thoughts on past board decisions as well as their visions for public education if they’re elected. Audio recording embedded.

• League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County + Lawrence Public Library – Sept. 20

Watch below:

• PAL-CWA (Personnel Association of Lawrence), the classified staff union of USD 497 – Sept. 23

Watch a partial recording:

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Pre-primary school board candidate forums and questionnaires:

Note: These forums were held and questionnaires completed before the primary election. Candidate Justine Burton was eliminated in the Aug. 1 primary, and Kevin Coronado is no longer actively running for the seat.

• Lawrence Chamber of Commerce questionnaire – July 31

Primary candidates answer questions about the board’s relationship with district administration, what they learned from the board’s choice to close two schools, and who should make decisions on “controversial” lesson topics.

• Douglas County Democratic Party forum – July 8

The candidates have a lot of differences, but there was one thing they could agree on: none of them support charter schools or any form of privatization of public schools. View a recording of the forum on Vimeo.

• Lawrence, Kansas branch NAACP forum – July 8

Both candidates for the single two-year term participated in this forum discussing issues of equity and systemic racism in Lawrence Public Schools. Video recording embedded.

Are we missing something from this guide? Can’t find something on our website? Please get in touch.

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Election 2023 coverage:

Lawrence election guide: Get to know the city commission and school board candidates

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Updated guide: The majority of city commission and school board seats will be on Lawrence voters’ ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Here’s info to help you cast an informed vote in the races that are closest to our day-to-day lives.

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