Archive for Wednesday, August 9, 2000

Successful candidates plot strategy

August 9, 2000

Candidates who were successful in last week's primary election soon plan to gear up for the final race toward the Nov. 7 general election.

Perhaps the most interesting race for southern Leavenworth County residents is the contest for the Third District county commission seat.

Incumbent Wayne Eldridge, a Democrat, and Republican Joseph Daniels Jr. survived crowded primary fields.

Eldridge, who is completing his first term, said he believes his work on the commission made the difference with voters. And because of his three years on the commission, voters know his name.

"I thought it would be a lot tougher because there was some pretty good competition," Eldridge said.

Eldridge collected 406 votes, followed by Patricia Young with 317 votes, Denzel Gibbens with 185, Jack Wolfe with 171 and Pat Albert with 96.

In the general election campaign, Eldridge said, he'll focus on two issues: reducing county waste and drawing additional interest in county government.

It should be a tough campaign, he said.

"I think Joe's a strong candidate," Eldridge said.

Daniels, who earned 859 votes, said he thought the primary election would have been closer. Wilma Schuler received 505 votes, while Karl Brown Jr. received 388 votes.

"Probably what really helped me is I've lived in the community longer than the other two have and probably have a little knowledge of the individual people who live in the county," Daniels said.

His campaign strategy now will be the same as before.

"I intend to keep visiting community groups," he said. "We intend to have a little thing in the parade, do some of that with the fair, be accessible to everybody and listen," he said. "There's no big plan to come out with new, wondrous proposals. It's simply a matter of keeping your nose to the wheel and doing it."

Another incumbent commissioner Republican Bob Adams also survived a primary challenge. Adams received 972 votes, while challenger H.B. Weeks received 634 votes. Now, Adams faces Leavenworth restaurant owner Hank Spellman, who gathered 749 votes running unopposed.

"I felt like I was running on my record, things that we have accomplished," Adams said. "I felt like I had been doing a pretty good job, and I hoped the folks realized that and gave me the opportunity to serve again. I felt pretty confident that I would come out on it, at no time thinking it was a done deal."

For the general election, it will be pretty much business as usual.

"I really haven't got my strategy planned yet," Adams said. "I don't think I'll change it much just run on my record, which is one of my strengths."

A Leavenworth-Jefferson county campaign that's attracting the attention of both political parties statewide is the Kansas Senate race in the Third District. Don Biggs, a Democrat, is retiring from that seat, which Republicans hope to regain.

Tonganoxie's Mike Gibbens beat Connie O'Brien in the Democratic primary. In the general election, Gibbens will face Bob Lyon, a conservative Republican from Winchester, in Jefferson County.

"We're going to make this a battle over protecting Leavenworth County's seat in the state Senate," Gibbens said.

He said he intends to be the first Tonganoxian in the Kansas Senate.

Lyon's strong Christian right following doesn't daunt Gibbens.

"I intend to let everyone know I'm a Christian," he said.

Gibbens' strategy is simple.

"I'm going to press the flesh, door to door," he said.

Because the massive district includes Leavenworth, Perry and Winchester, he must concentrate on those cities, where he's not as well-known as he is in this area.

"This is a huge district," he said. "You can't imagine how hard it is to walk it."

He believes his 18-year residency in Leavenworth County will count with voters.

"We're the sixth-largest county in the state of Kansas, and we cannot afford to give this Senate seat up," said Gibbens, who describes himself as progressive and a Robert Docking Democrat adequate but austere.

For Lyon, it was hard work, both in Leavenworth and Jefferson counties, that made the difference. Lyon defeated Leavenworth Countians Jack Divine and Louis Klemp Jr. in the GOP primary.

"It was very surprising," Lyon said. "I was very pleased."

Lyon took several days off last week, to spend time with his family following the primary election. Before last week's balloting, Lyon had walked door-to-door, which he believes propelled him to victory.

"I spent a lot of time in Leavenworth because there wasn't anybody who really knew me," he said. "I got to get my message out and I got to meet a lot of people."

In addition, Lyon said, a group of supporters took the lead for him in Jefferson County.

He's looking forward to getting back on the campaign trail.

"It's certainly going to be a tough campaign," he said. "My focus has never been on the opponents. I have a message and I'm going to focus on that."

Like Gibbens, Lyon is looking forward to support from his political party in the contest for this Senate seat.

Incumbent state Sen. Mark Gilstrap said his defeat of J.R. Russell was something of a surprise.

"I didn't think it would be that large a margin," the first-term Democrat said. "My opponent worked pretty hard the last couple of weeks."

In the next three months, Gilstrap will use his experience in his campaign against Republican Chester Richards for the Fifth District Kansas Senate seat.

"We had a good four years in Topeka, with tax cuts and money for education," he said.

Another incumbent legislator, Rep. Ray Cox, said he was thankful for Leavenworth County's role in his Republican primary win over Jim Jordan. Cox will face Democrat Linda Schuttler in the general election.

"Leavenworth County came out approximately two to one for me," Cox said. "That's the best vote I've ever had. Leavenworth County was just beautiful."

Cox, who takes elections very seriously, said he plans to run on his record between now and November.

"I don't change my philosophy at all," he said. "I'll just run on my record, and I feel like I can support and justify any vote I've made if people want to listen."

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