Johnson County Board of County Commissioners Chair Ed Eilert’s chances for reelection appeared to be buoyed Tuesday with his showing in a primary that eliminated the least conservative member of a three-candidate field.
Eilert took 41 percent of the vote, followed by Patricia Lightner in second with 38 percent of the vote. Current District 1 Commissioner and former Fairway Mayor Ed Peterson finished in third with 21 percent.
Lightner, a former state representative who ran for the U.S. Congress in 2010, has a strong conservative base grounded in the western and southern parts of the county. But she is at a fundraising disadvantage to Eilert, and most political observers expect the more moderate voters who chose Peterson in the primary to bank toward Eilert in the general.
Eilert said after the results came in Tuesday that he feels his strongest selling point going into the general election is experience with county government.
“She has a lack of knowledge about county operations,” said Eliert. “I have a good deal of experience in economic development and local government. She basically has none.”
Lightner said Wednesday that was very satisfied with her showing given how little funding she had to work with in the primary. She said she would continue to communicate to voters about what she characterized as Eilert’s record of “bad decisions.”
“Our advantage is that we’re going after the whole establishment thing,” she said. “You get so comfortable doing things that you don’t do them the right way.”
She pointed to the financial troubles with the county’s bus system and the decision to purchase the King Louie building as examples of decisions that have had negative financial implications for the county.
“Voters who voted for me are tired of the cycle,” she said. “County government needs to live within its means.”
Peterson said the results of Tuesday’s primary were disappointing, and that he would be taking some time to determine what his next moves would be. He said he hopes Eilert and Lightner will have a robust debate of the issues he highlighted during the primary campaign.
“The critical issue is whether we’re going to face issues that have been kicked down the road,” he said. “What to do about our library system, our parks, the courthouse — we have got to face all these matters that have been ignored.”