Primary voters weren't big help to Kasten, Keefe

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Republican state Rep.-elect Mary Kasten would have had a much larger margin of victory than the 605 votes by which she defeated Democrat Mike Keefe on Tuesday had she been able to hold on to the votes of everyone who voted in the Republican presidential primary.

By the same measure, Keefe would have narrowed, but not closed, the gap with Kasten had he obtained the votes of every Cape Girardeau voter who chose a Democratic ballot in the presidential primary.

An analysis of the 13 voting precincts wholly within the 158th Missouri House District showed that Kasten received 436 fewer votes than were cast by Republicans in their primary. Keefe, meanwhile, was receiving 213 fewer votes than Democratic candidates for president.

Overall, there were 140 fewer votes counted in the 158th District race than in the presidential primaries of the three political parties within the 13 precincts.

Libertarian Steve Kinder was the main beneficiary of the defections from party orthodoxy, taking 563 votes compared to only 26 total Libertarian presidential primary votes in the 13 precincts.

The final results of the contest showed Kasten with 4,439 votes, or 50.09 percent. Keefe received 3,834 votes, or 43.26 percent, Kinder's 563 votes were good for 6.35 percent and 26 voters cast write-in ballots.

Overcoming challenges

Stormy weather and a strong turnout were the biggest headaches for Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark in her first major partisan election.

Clark, elected in 2006 to take over from longtime clerk Rodney Miller, faced problems of a precinct that opened the polls without power in Gordonville and a massive turnout that almost overwhelmed the stock of ballots in some precincts.

Strong thunderstorms rolled through Cape Girardeau County in the early morning hours Tuesday. Polls opened on time in Gordonville, Clark said, and she received a call about the outage shortly after 5 a.m.

"They just did what they had to do to get people to vote," she said. "Everyone goes just tries to go into action mode and makes it happen."

Cape Girardeau uses a scanner that counts ballots as they are fed in by voters. In a power outage, the ballots are stored in a sealed box until electricity is restored and then election judges from each party feed the ballots into the counter.

By midafternoon, the threat of another round of storms had emerged, as had another problem -- record turnout was depleting the stock of ballots for some voters. For example, 11,113 Republican voters cast ballots in the primary, far surpassing the approximately 7,469 cast in the last contested GOP nominating race in 2000.

And Democrats showed surprising strength, drawing 7,975 voters to the polls compared to 2,820 ballots in 2004.

Clark based her ballot stocks on the turnout in those elections. "The numbers between now and then have been alarming," she said.

Election officials shuttled ballots to La Croix United Methodist Church, where more than 1,100 voters -- about 55 percent of those registered -- turned out to vote.

"I had ordered extra ballots just because I was worried," Clark said. "I was just concerned because this was my first presidential election and I wanted to be covered."

Fortunately, she said, heavy weather held off until the polls closed. The storms that struck shortly after 7 p.m. did delay the delivery of some vote counts to the election office in Jackson, she said.

Tight race

One of the closest elections in the area saw Beverly Tweedy of Anna, Ill., defeat incumbent Union County Commissioner Bill Jackson by 56 votes in the race for a six-year term.

Jackson lost a court case last year when his authority to appoint a commissioner to an open seat was challenged by his fellow commissioner, John Garner. Tweedy was the leading vote-getter as a write-in candidate for a commission seat in 2006 when the only candidate on the ballot withdrew.

Jackson appointed James Tweedy, no relation to Beverly Tweedy. A court recently ruled that James Tweedy was not properly seated because Garner did not agree to the appointment.

Beverly Tweedy received 2,368 votes Tuesday compared to 2,312 for Jackson. "I wouldn't call that a landslide," she said.

The election victory was a combination of hard work, with help from the county Democratic Party, which endorsed Tweedy over the incumbent.

Republicans have 60 days to caucus and decide whether to put a candidate on the November ballot, Tweedy said.

She's staying in campaign mode until then in case a challenge develops, she said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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