BENTON, Mo. -- Scott City resident Cindy Gray went to the polls early Tuesday afternoon primarily for one reason.
"I basically came out to vote for judge," Gray said.
Danny Brown of Scott City was there for the same reason. In fact, he had little interest in the race for the county's presiding commissioner seat at all.
It had been over a quarter-decade since Scott County voters had a choice for Associate Circuit Judge Division 5. Their choice, overwhelmingly and throughout the county, was for change.
Scott County elected a political newcomer, private practice lawyer Scott Horman of Chaffee, over David Mann of Sikeston, a 27-year incumbent.
In the county's other contested race, current 2nd District Commissioner Jamie Burger beat out Sikeston businessman Glenn Pinkerton for presiding commissioner.
All candidates were Democrats. Since no Republicans ran for county offices, the primary winners automatically take the seats.
Horman received 3,710 votes to Mann's 2,635 and won all but one of the county's precincts -- the Park precinct in Mann's hometown of Sikeston -- in the unofficial count Tuesday night.
"I expected to do well in Sikeston," Horman said after the win between hugs and handshakes from supporters. "I didn't expect the disparity in votes to be what it was."
Mann was unavailable for comment over the telephone.
Voter turnout was strong for an off-year primary election, said County Clerk Rita Milam. Of the county's 25,538 eligible voters, 27.65 percent went to the polls Tuesday. Only 23 percent of registered voters turned out in the 2002 primary.
Horman was able to defeat the north-south dynamic that sometimes creeps into Scott County politics. But the line that separates north from south was stronger in the vote for presiding commissioner, where Burger won by a narrower margin thanks in large part to huge displays of support for him from the county's northern precincts.
Burger defeated Pinkerton 3,361 to 2,814.
Precincts like Benton, Kelso and Oran went overwhelmingly for Burger. The majority of the Sikeston precincts went for Pinkerton.
The victory was a huge relief for Burger, who ran on his six years of experience as a commissioner. "We put in a lot of hard work here," Burger said as he anxiously awaited returns at the courthouse with his family.
After the victory, Burger said he knew the support would be strong in the northern end of the county. For instance, Burger's hometown of Benton gave him 309 votes compared to Pinkerton's 158.
But Burger credits a stronger-than-expected showing in the county's southern end for the win. He hoped for at least 30 percent in the southern precincts to guarantee victory and got more.
Pinkerton knew his base of support was in Sikeston, and on election day he camped out the legal distance from the Scott City polling place all day to bolster his strength in the north. The effort wasn't enough.
Pinkerton's first act in defeat was to shake hands with and congratulate his opponent.
If the win was a relief for Burger, it was a sort of relief for Pinkerton, as well. "It's been a chore," said Pinkerton. "It's not been an easy task, and it just wasn't meant to be."
Pinkerton said "the fat lady sang." As far as his future in county politics, there isn't one. After the work and letdown of this election, he said, county politics is not for him.
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