Clerk expecting high turnout for Tuesday primary

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark is preparing for a primary election turnout Tuesday that could rival the record numbers that voted in February's presidential primary.

As of midafternoon Friday, more than 350 absentee ballots had been returned for the election and another 130 were in the hands of voters with two additional days of absentee voting before the primary.

Voters will be choosing nominees for statewide, legislative and county offices. Clark said she is expecting a big turnout because two local primaries, in the 158th Missouri House District and for the District 1 county commission seat, have drawn a lot of interest.

"I think it will be comparable to February, maybe a little less, because there are two pretty big races both in Jackson and out-county and in Cape city," she said. "With those races it will be substantially higher than in a normal primary."

In February, 19,132 votes were cast in the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian presidential primaries. That is about 2,500 more ballots than were counted in the governor's race in the 2004 primary.

Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Voters must choose a partisan ballot for either the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian parties. There is no voter registration by party in Missouri, and voters are free to choose a primary ballot from any party and are not limited to the same party they have chosen in past elections.

In Scott County, County Clerk Rita Milam said she's not predicting turnout but expects some voters who wouldn't normally be voting Republican to be attracted by the chance to help U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Columbia, win the GOP primary for governor because of his ties to the region. Hulshof is a native of Bertrand and still owns a farm near there.

Voters must show identification to cast a ballot, Clark said. Acceptable forms of identification include voter ID cards issued by her office, a driver's license or state ID, an ID card issued by the federal government or a Missouri college or a current utility bill with the voter's name and address.

The main primary contests, and the key contenders, include:

* Republican primary for governor. State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Columbia, have been slugging it out since Gov. Matt Blunt announced he would not seek a second term. Two lesser-known candidates, Jen Sievers of Jackson and Scott Long of Mountain View, Mo., are also on the ballot. The winner will likely face Attorney General Jay Nixon, who has only token opposition in the primary.

* Cape Girardeau County District 1 commissioner. In the only contested primary for county office in Cape Girardeau County, a baker's dozen of contenders are vying for nomination. There are 10 Republican contenders and three Democratic candidates seeking the chance to take the seat being vacated by Larry Bock.

* 158th District Missouri House: The three-way Republican primary features Wayne Wallingford, a businessman and retired Air Force officer, Jeff Glenn, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, and businessman and Naval Reserve officer Clint Tracy. The winner will face Robert Roland, a Libertarian, in November.

* Scott County sheriff and District 2 commissioner. Incumbent Sheriff Rick Walter faces a challenge from Sikeston police officer Bobby Sullivan in the Democratic primary, with the winner facing Wes Drury, a Republican, in the fall. In the contest for commissioner, Donnie Kiefer and Shelby "Skip" Steger are competing for the Democratic nomination to take on appointed incumbent Republican Ron McCormick.

* Perry County Commission, sheriff and assessor. Republicans in Perry County will chose candidates in both commission districts. In District 1, Tim Brewer faces John Edwards for the chance to run against Democrat Patrick J. Heaps in November, while incumbent Commissioner Edwin W. Stueve, Jr., tries to hold off James L. (Jim) Sutterer in District 2, where no Democrat filed. Incumbent Sheriff Gary Schaaf hopes to hold off a challenge from Perryville police officer Joe Martin, with the winner facing Democrat Ted Christisen in the fall. In the assessor's race, three Republicans -- Cheryl Stueve, Robyn G. Richardet and Charles H. Triller -- are running. No candidates filed in the Democratic or Libertarian parties.

* Bollinger County Commission, sheriff and assessor. Republican voters will select candidates in both commission districts, with incumbent Larry P. VanGennip facing Sheriff Terry Wiseman for the District 1 slot and incumbent Kelly Francis hoping to hold off a challenge from Steve Jordan. The winner of the District 1 race has no fall opponent, but Democrats will be selecting a candidate in District 2 from among Andy (Bud) Wiesner, Fred Long and Lindsey Davis. In the sheriff's race, chief deputy Leo McElrath III is seeking the top job in the Republican primary against Bloomfield police officer Ryan McLeary, with the winner facing James Galloway in the fall. The assessor's race pits Ronda Elfrink, Nonie Cowell and Micah Bristow among Republicans for the opportunity to face Democrat Chester L. Hayes in the fall.

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On the Net: Visit the Southeast Missourian's election Web page to read current and past news stories about the candidates, see videos from candidates in the 158th District Missouri House race and the Cape Girardeau County District 1 commissioner contest and read the candidates' answers to the Southeast Missourian's election questionnaire.

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