Koeper wins GOP primary for District 1 commissioner; McMillan wins Democratic side

Wednesday, August 6, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Corey Brown, Tom Schulte, and Jay Purcell view some of the election results as they come in at the Cape County Administrative Building on Tuesday, August 5, 2008.

Paul Koeper, a civil engineer who focused his campaign on the condition of county roads, won a resounding victory Tuesday in the Republican primary for District 1 commissioner in Cape Girardeau County.

Koeper more than doubled the vote total of his closest challenger, Jackson Alderman Joe Bob Baker, in the 10-way race.

On the Democratic side, Marvin McMillan, a truck driver for Ready Mix Concrete of Perryville, edged out a narrow victory over Pat Wissman in the three-way race that also included Myra Morris.

The two will face off in the Nov. 4 election, with the winner taking over the seat held by Larry Bock, who is stepping down after 16 years in office.

Koeper had outdistanced all the other candidates in fundraising for the primary, raising and spending more than $20,000.

Overall, Koeper took 2,063 votes, or just over one-third of the total. Baker received 896 votes, or about 14.6 percent of the total. Stephen Daume, a Daisy cattle breeder, was third with 843 votes or about 13.75 percent of the total.

Koeper is vice president of Penzel Construction, a post he has promised to resign if elected. He won almost every one of the 20 precincts in District 1.

Koeper praised his supporters for hard work and sticking to their election plan as the keys to his success. "I have got an excellent committee who worked hard," Koeper said. "I've got a lot of people who gave me a lot of help."

McMillan said the victory was still sinking in. He said he had been resting from an 11 1/2 hour day in his truck when a nephew called to tell him he had won.

"I have never done this before, so I don't know how to react," McMillan said.

McMillan said he realizes the fall campaign will be an uphill battle in a county that Republicans have dominated for nearly 30 years.

"The money part is going to be the real issue," McMillan said. "There is no doubt my opponent has a lot deeper pockets than I do. But I am not backing down by any means."

The winner steps onto a commission that has been reeling from a string of controversies ranging from Sunshine Law questions to Auditor David Ludwig's Internet surfing habits to the sale of park land to stripping District 2 Commissioner Jay Purcell of many of his duties.

As the votes were being counted, Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones watched the proceedings and said he was surprised that Koeper did so well. Jones also said he's going to have to talk to Koeper, who last week said Jones needs to be less of a boss over county government.

"Gerald Jones has been in for several years, and apparently Gerald still likes things going his way," Koeper said. "He needs to come around and see it is not just his way."

In reply, Jones said, "I will work with whoever I've got. I'll just have to explain to him that I've got 2 1/2 years left."

After the votes were counted, Baker, too, said he was surprised by the margin and that he was unable to win the ward he represents on the Jackson Board of Aldermen.

"You really have to take your hat off to him, he really whopped us," Baker said. "I look back to see what we could have done differently. He hit Jackson hard, being the VP of Penzel. It made a lot of difference that he got on TV. We did campaign hard, but he clearly took his case about roads and bridges to the people."

Other candidates attributed their showings to a need to work their regular jobs during the campaign, a lack of money or other obstacles.

Not one of the candidates interviewed said they regretted their bid.

"I didn't do this to come in second," said Rick Shultz, who came in fifth. "It has been all-consuming for the last nine months."

Staff writer Peg McNichol contributed to this report.


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