Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
Rep. Connie O’Brien (R-Tonganoxie) won a 4th term in the Kansas House of Representatives Tuesday night with a strong margin of victory of 18-year-old Austin Harris (D-Tonganoxie). With over 6600 votes cast in the district, O’Brien beat Harris 59% – 41%.
“I’m extremely grateful to the voters of Leavenworth and Douglas County,” O’Brien said following the victory. “This shows that my motto of job creation, not taxation is a strong message and people of Kansas do not have to be worried about keeping their hard earned money.”
Harris was gracious in losing his first ever political campaign.
“Obviously, this is not the outcome I was hoping for, but I support the decision of the people,” Harris told us. “I caused a conversation and a debate. I’m very happy and proud of the campaign we ran.”
O’Brien complemented Harris following the announcement of the results.
“He was very articulate,” O’Brien said. “It’s nice to see young people wanting to be involved in the political process.”
This is likely not the last time you will hear or see Harris. Harris discussed how he plans on taking a close look at the numbers and seeing where he can improve in the future.
“This was an incredible learning experience for me,” Harris stated. “I hope to take this and improve upon it in the future.”
When we asked Harris what his future political aspirations might be he stated that he certainly would like to run again, but that it would depend on school and other determinations to be made down the road. Harris is in his first semester at Washburn University.
Statewide Republicans won out as well. Pat Roberts to the U.S. Senate seat handily. Governor Sam Brownback won a narrow victory over Paul Davis. Both seats had been hotly contested over the last several weeks. All four U.S House Representatives seats went to Republicans as well.
In the House District that encompasses Eudora, Rep Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) easily won her election over Margie Wakefield (D-Lawrence) and Chris Clemmons (L-Shawnee). Jenkins garnered 57% of the vote with Wakefield picking up 39% and Clemmons nabbing 4% of the votes. Wakefield won only Douglas County out of the 25 counties in the 2nd Congressional District. Clemmons won no counties.
“I would like to thank the good people of Eastern Kansas for giving me the honor and the privilege of representing them in Washington,” Jenkins said in a press release. “We have a real mess in Washington and Eastern Kansans have recognized that I am trying to be a part of the solution. We have been working very hard in the House over the past couple years to put forward solutions to get the fiscal House in order, to get people back to work, to put more money in people’s pockets, and get the economy moving again.”
Clemmons posted a message on his Facebook page following the loss. The message was posted before the final numbers were tallied.
“I ran this campaign by myself on less than $5,000. I attended every event I was invited to and everywhere I went, the response was overwhelmingly positive,” Clemmons said. “Am I disappointed at a 5% showing? Yes. But don’t allow tonight’s results take the wind out of your sails.”
Later in is statement, he said that this was not the end of the trail for him.
“This campaign was a stepping stone for 2016. While we didn’t win tonight, know that I will not be deterred. I will run again and we will get the W in 2016.”
Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
The 2014 Primary elections on Tuesday resulted in a few surprising wins in some local races.
One of the bigger surprises in the state was right here in the democratic race for the 42nd Kansas House District. 18-year-old Austin Lee Harris beat out Harold Fevurly Jr. 56% to 44%.
“I knew it would be close, but we are all extremely happy that we came out on top,” an exited Harris Tuesday evening. Harris was a little awestruck when we asked him what it’s like to be one election away from the Kansas State House.
“It’s just a whirlwind,” Harris said. “This just goes to show you that age doesn’t matter. We are proud of this accomplishment.”
Harris now will need to prepare himself to take on a political veteran when he goes against 3 term incumbent Connie O’Brien. “A lot of moderate Republicans feel disenfranchised,” Harris said. “Voters need to take a look at her record and make the best determination of who to vote for.”
Harold Fevurly Jr. was a little taken aback when he learned he lost the election. We contacted Fevurly late Tuesday night for a comment about his loss and his response was simple: “I lost? Well, the voters chose, that’s democracy”.
The other closely contested race involved the Insurance Commissioner’s office. Area resident Beverly Gossage came in a close second to CPA Ken Selzer (Leawood) for the Republican nomination in the race. The field was crowded with 5 contestants running for the GOP nomination. Selzer won the race with 27%, while Gossage pulled 23%. Clark Shultz came in third right behind Gossage also with 23%. David Powell finished a distant fourth with 17% and John Toplikar rounded out the field with 10%. Selzer will now face off against Dennis Anderson (Overland Park), the sole Democrat in the race.
In the 2nd District U.S. House race, Congress woman Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) had no problem defeating her opponent Josh Tucker 69% to 31%.
“First of all, I want to thank Joshua Tucker for having the courage to run. It’s a tough business sometimes and while we may have our disagreements I suspect even he would agree that as Republicans we generally agree on the issues that matter most,” Jenkins said in a phone interview with Eudorareporter.com. “I’m glad the primary is behind us and I look forward to the election in November.”
Jenkins will have a fight on her hands. Margie Wakefield (D-Lawrence) who was unopposed in the primary race, has an active campaign against Jenkins going already. Wakefield has come out against many of Jenkins’ votes in the House.
“I haven’t heard what she for yet,” Jenkins said. “I’ve heard what she’s against in regards to my record. I’ve heard her say one day I do nothing and then the next it’s I did this or that. You can’t have it both ways.”
In other races, most came out as expected but the margins of victory were closer than anticipated. Governor Sam Brownback won 63% to 37%. Political pundits told us that while Brownback’s win was all but certain, the margin of victory would be something to watch. Anything below 70% likely means that Brownback may have some difficulty in November in his race against Paul Davis (D-Topeka).
In the Senate race Democrat Chad Taylor (Topeka) narrowly defeated Patrick Wiesner 53% to 47%. On the Republican side, Pat Roberts (Dodge City) edged Milton Wolf (Leawood) 48% to 41%. D.J. Smith finished with 6% and Alvin Zahtner picked up 5%.
For Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (Piper) defeated Scott Morgan (Lawrence) 65% to 35%.
Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
4:30 PM Update: We are awaiting some updated numbers from the Douglas County Clerk’s office about voter turnout. In the mean time, we can tell you that voting at Central Eudora polling station has picked up some but still lags far behind 2011 total vote count for the location. As of approximately 4:10 PM, 53 voters had submitted ballots with 3 additional provisional ballots. In 2011, 153 citizens in Central Eudora voted. Using the number we had, 4.5% of the registered voters have voted so far and we are just under a third of the voters in 2011. For the local elections, North Eudora pulls the greatest population of registered voters by percentage. Central and South pull the least.
So far today Eudora voters seem to not be getting out to the polls. The Douglas County election office has released voter counts as of 10:30 AM and it shows that at three of the 4 polling stations in Eudora, the voter turnout is between 3% and 4% of registered voters. The numbers include those who have gone to the polls today and those that voted prior to election day with early balloting. In the Central Eudora polling district, only 1.8% of the voting population has so far visited the polls. In the 2011 election, the total voting population for the polling place was anywhere from 12% in Central Eudora to 20% in North Eudora.
According to Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, Douglas County as a whole is seeing larger numbers of voters for this election already as many polling stations in the county are at 50% of the 2011 voter totals. In Eudora, the 10:30 AM check showed that we are slightly over 21% of the 2011 voting totals.
Numbers should be released later on this afternoon with a midday count of voter turnout. We will keep you posted on how many people are showing up to vote. We will also have extensive coverage of the totals once the polls close at 7:00 PM this evening.
One of the stranger phenomenon’s that I have seen in my 2 1/2 years of covering Eudora is going on right now. There seems to be extreme apathy in regards to tomorrow’s election (yes, tomorrow is Election Day!)
For all three previous elections I have covered, voter interest in the candidates was prevalent. People seemed concerned about who the candidates were and interested in their stances on various issues. You would talk to shop keepers in town and their customers were always talking about it. This time around, no one is talking about the election. I lost count of the number of times, when talking to those business owners and various citizens in Eudora, they have said “Oh there’s an election coming up?”
This election is important for the very fact that the members we elect to the School Board and the City Commission will be making a determination on who the future day to day leader of the School District and City staff is. The last time the groups made this decision they both selected good choices in Don Grosdidier and John Harrenstein. Both those groups have had some changeover since those decisions. Now, each body will be finding the replacements for those individuals. If they make the wrong choice, our future could be and likely will be greatly impacted. It is every citizens right and duty to get out and vote for their elected officials.
We want to provide you some links in order to assist citizens in making their choices. You can click on the names below for the candidates that filled out profiles specifically for Eudorareporter.com. All candidates for each body were requested to fill out answers to the exact same questions.
City Council (you will vote for no more than two City Commissioners)
School Board (you will vote for no more than three School Board members)
You can also gain some insight about the candidates from our stories on the Candidate fourm we held a few weeks ago:
Voting Precinct map: If you wish to know what precinct you are in, you can click HERE for a PDF version of the map for Eudora.
North Eudora – Eudora City Hall, 4 E. 7th Street
Central Eudora – Eudora Rec Center, 1638 Elm Street
West Eudora – Eudora Church of Christ, 1530 Winchester Rd.
South Eudora – Eudora Township Fire Station – 310 E. 20th St.
The Polls will be open from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM.
We will have complete results Tuesday evening and have reaction from the candidates following the tally of the votes.
As a rule, we do not endorse any candidate. It should be up to the individual voters to decide who they think is the best to govern their City and School Board. Voters need to be informed and, most importantly, they need to show up to the polls.
In a small municipal election like this, every vote counts. Ask Commissioner John Fiore about that. Fiore gained a seat on the board by a margin of only 13 votes two years ago. In that election, only about 500 voters turned out and that election was highly anticipated. A local election impacts you more than any national or state race by far. These people decide what your property taxes are and handle the chore of deciding what happens in our schools and city regularly. Stand up and be counted. Let your voice be heard.
– John Schulz
The views expressed in this editorial are the views of the Managing Editor only and do no necessarily reflect the views of the staff or advertisers of Eudorareporter.com. Opposing views on this or any editorial are always welcomed.
Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
With the coming School Board and City Commission election in April, we asked each candidate for both School Board and City Commission to answer a few questions to help give voters an insight into who is running. Each candidate was given the same list of questions to answer and their responses are being printed exactly as received. Today, we feature School Board Incumbent Joe Hurla.
Please tell about your background.
The second of 10 children, I was born and raised outside of Topeka, where I attended a public school district with many similarities to our schools in Eudora. After high school, I attended Kansas State University, where I met my wife, Shanda, and later received a B.S. in Journalism and Mass Communications. We moved to Eudora shortly after graduation in 2000. While living and working in Eudora, I received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Kansas. My wife and I now have four sons – ages 3 months, 3, 5, and 7. I am an owner of an energy-engineering firm, 360 Energy Engineers, that provides energy-related facility improvements to municipal and commercial clients.
What qualifications do you feel you have for a seat on the School Board?
Since my election to the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education in 2012, I have gained tremendous experience in first-hand district leadership. Along with other members of the Board of Education, I have been a part of the deliberate consideration and evaluation of numerous important issues that affect our students, staff, and community. In addition to these experiences at the Board table, I have represented the Board of Education as a Committee member for the district’s Curriculum Coordinating Council. Participation on this committee has made me uniquely knowledgeable regarding the progress and challenges within our classrooms, most notably the ongoing transition to Common Core State Academic Standards.
In addition to my actual Board of Education experience, I have spent more than 10 years working with school districts across Kansas to better utilize limited budgets by reducing unnecessary utility and maintenance expenses and redirecting tax dollars to essential school functions. Locally, I served on the Eudora Schools Foundation for several years, seeking to provide additional resources to enhance the educational opportunities of students in the Eudora school district. I have also sought additional opportunities to improve Eudora’s schools, assisting the district (along with the City of Eudora) in applying for and receiving a grant that fully funded an energy manager to ensure the district’s efficient operation.
What do you think is the most important issue that faces the School Board and what do you plan to do in regards to that issue?
While there are numerous challenges that the Board of Education will confront over the next four years, our ability to rise to meet those challenges will be largely dependent upon having the right administrative team in place to implement the strategic plan developed by our board over the past six months. With the upcoming retirement of our outstanding superintendent, Don Grosdidier, the board’s top priority must be the successful transition to our next superintendent. Simply hiring a new superintendent can be rather simple; however, continuing our high academic expectations and achievement, outstanding district culture, growing community engagement, and overall positive momentum of USD 491 is far more difficult. The board will be tasked with recruiting, identifying, and hiring a superintendent who will be capable of continuing to advance Eudora’s schools among the top tier of Kansas districts.
What other issues do you feel the School Board should review or remedy during the next term?
There are many exciting opportunities and challenges facing the Board of Education over the next four years. The successful implementation of the Common Core State Academic Standards and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support will require attention from our board, as well as diligent effort from our outstanding teachers and administrators. Working to implement USD 491’s Strategic Plan – which includes retaining and developing our staff; improving access to technology in our classrooms; providing a well-rounded yet individualized learning experience for each of our students; and expanded collaboration with the Eudora Community – will be the measuring stick of our success. In addition, the board must continue to confront the challenging and sometimes hostile relationship between Kansas schools and the Kansas legislature. With the future of education finance continuously hanging in the balance, the school board must make decisions the position not only our current students for success, but also those students we will educate a generation from now.
Why do you want to sit on the School Board?
As a father of four children living in the school district, I have a personal interest in ensuring that Eudora continues to place itself among the top school districts in Kansas. I want to bring my experience, knowledge, and passion for education to help move the district toward its goal of providing the best possible education to the children of Eudora.
We will continue to bring you Candidate profiles for the School Board and City Commission over the course of the next two weeks. Candidates will also have the opportunity to answer more in depth questions during the Meet The Candidates Forum on Tuesday, March 12 at 7:00 PM. The Forum will be held at Eudora City Hall, 4 East 7th Street and the public is invited to attend.