Voters pare candidate fields
With about 15 percent of the registered voters casting ballots in Tuesday's primary elections, six Baldwin City Council and two Baldwin School Board candidates advanced to the April 3 general election.
"No, that's not bad," said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew regarding the turnout. "Mid teens is about right. I would love to have better turnout, but that's what most city council and school board primaries have."
In the city council race, incumbents Tony Brown with 227 votes and Ted Brecheisen Jr. with 207 led the way, with former council member Ken Wagner (199) in third, followed by incumbent Nancy Brown (166), Kenny Niehoff (128) and Jennifer Hayes (118). Baker University student Jason Mock, with 111 votes, was eliminated. Mock, a Baldwin High School graduate, had run unsuccessfully for the council two years ago.
On the school board side, newcomer Joshua Mihesuah had 269 votes and long-time Baldwin City resident Teresa Arnold had 196 to advance to the general election. Doug Mead was eliminated with 109 votes. Dave Wagner, the fourth name on the ballot, had 44 votes despite withdrawing from the election two weeks ago.
The six council candidates who made it through the primary will now battle for the three positions open. Voters Tuesday could choose up to three candidates on their ballots, which represented those openings.
The two school board winners in the at-large, position 7 race will be joined on the general election ballot by three incumbents -- Alison Bauer, Blaine Cone and Scott Lauridsen -- who are running unopposed. In Tuesday's primary, voters could only choose one candidate, again representing the number of seats open.
Reactions varied by candidates to the results. The top-two vote getters represented different situations with council incumbent T. Brown and Mihesuah, the newcomer to the school board race.
"The election results were flattering," said T. Brown. "It was interesting to me that Junior and I received the highest number of votes, given how different our political philosophies are. But, there you have Baldwin politics -- two very distinct constituencies."
Mihesuah has only been in the Baldwin area for two years, so he wasn't sure how he'd do in the primary.
"I was kind of surprised, not having name recognition," said Mihesuah. "Pleasantly surprised."
But, he hit the streets hard to counteract that and it worked.
"I did that," he said. "I went to a lot of site councils. Went out and met a lot of people. I learned a lot from that. I appreciate everyone supporting me. I had a lot of people pushing for me and that made the difference. That was my saving grace."
Another candidate that was in a different position was K. Wagner, who served on the council for four years, but didn't seek reelection two years ago. He wants to return to public service and sees the primary as the first step.
"We got the first hurdle over with," said K. Wagner. "It was a good turnout. It was better than I expected. I think it's a good slate of candidates. It gives people a choice. It might be a good indication of change. I didn't know where I'd fall in there."
T. Brown had other reflections on the race.
"I was glad to see Ken finish third and I hope that reflects strong support for him," he said. "I was, of course, disappointed that Jason did not make it to the general election, but I'm not surprised. I give him credit for jumping into the contest."
All the candidates also noted that the campaigning will really pick up now heading into the general election.
"I am pleased that I made it through the primary and am looking forward to the general election in April," said council candidate Hayes. I am excited for the next few weeks and the opportunity to be out in the public talking with the citizens of Baldwin to hear their ideas and concerns for our city."
For Mihesuah, it's more of the same.
"Now I've got to really start working to get my name a little better known," he said.
Arnold, who finished just behind him in second, will step up her campaign, too, she said.
"I am pleased with the results and look forward to the general election."
K. Wagner knows the real contest heats up now and hopes that the next candidate forums will have a few changes from the ones that preceded the primary elections.
"It does start," he said of campaigning. "I really wish if they have one (forum), I wish there was a format where the people can ask questions."
Past forums have had questions given to the candidates ahead of the forums to allow them to prepare. Also, instead of having separate forums for city council and school board candidates, they may be done together because both governing bodies face similar questions with the biggest unknown in the area -- what the Gardner Intermodal, a massive warehouse distribution center that will create thousands of jobs will mean to growth in Baldwin City and the school district.
"These next four years are going to be crucial," said K. Wagner.
The candidates won't be the only ones gearing up for the general election.
"Now we're getting ready for the general and, hopefully, we'll have better turnout," said Shew. "I'm sure that we will."