Candidate filing likely to begin Tuesday

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Missouri's county clerks and political candidates are preparing for the filing period to start as scheduled Tuesday, now that it seems all but certain a last-minute move by lawmakers to push back the deadline won't happen.

And that leaves state Senate hopefuls with a decision -- file Tuesday in hopes of getting the prized top spot on ballots or wait to make sure the boundaries of their districts won't change as the redistricting madness continues.

"Unfortunately, yes, I think the filing period will stand," said Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.

The Missouri Legislature last week worked to push back the start of filing in light of new Senate boundaries that were released by a second bipartisan commission. While a House measure was approved to move the start of the filing period back, it stalled in the Senate, which then adjourned for the weekend.

The map can't be finalized until a constitutionally required 15-day public comment period ends, meaning those who are filing for Senate seats can't be sure those boundaries won't change after they've filed.

"I think it's chaotic," Crowell said. "I don't know how you write this down. It's so complicated."

Crowell, who is being forced out at the end of the year by term limits, said he understands it's a tough decision for those who want to run for the Senate. Even the House districts have been challenged in court, so those too could change.

But the Senate map -- which locally would set up a race between Reps. Wayne Wallingford and Ellen Brandom for the 27th District -- technically doesn't exist until the bipartisan commission gives it final approval.

"That map doesn't exist any more so than any other map that's been floated out there," Crowell said.

The secretary of state's office said candidates will have to file in the districts as they stand right now, which are still the 11-year-old boundaries that were changed in light of the 2000 census to reflect population shifts.

The office also suggested that Senate candidates wait to file until the new boundaries are finalized. If they don't and the boundaries change, the candidates will have to file again in the new districts.

But Crowell said that if he were running, he wouldn't do that. If candidates wait, he said, they won't be at the top of the ballot.

"Like it or not, there is statistical credence that you're at the top of the ballot, it's worth 2 to 3 percentage points in the outcome," he said. "That's a sad commentary on the electorate, but it's a real fact. ... I wouldn't really advise people to wait. They should file in the districts they can file in. That's what I'd do."

He also cautioned that filing in districts that have not been changed to reflect the 2010 census numbers could be challenged in court, too.

"So it comes down to this: Do you want the bipartisan commission to draw the map or a federal judge," Crowell said.

If the legislature doesn't intercede, the filing period will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday and end at 5 p.m. March 27. Several local offices are up for grabs, including two county commission seats, public administrator, sheriff and assessor. Those seeking House or Senate seats must file in Jefferson City.

Several county clerks in the area said they are preparing for the period to begin on Tuesday until they're told otherwise.

The possibility of the period changing has caused some headaches, said Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark Summers.

"The main thing is the confusion for the candidates and for what's next," Summers said. "The uncertainty is a little unsettling because it is a big day. I'm sure the state is having the same issue. ... It's a huge day for them for filing."

Her office at the administration building in Jackson will open at 8 a.m., where candidates will file a statement that they've paid their taxes, pay a $50 filing fee that goes to the political parties and then be asked to fill out statements of candidacy.

Numbers will be drawn Tuesday only, Summers said, to determine where names will be placed on the ballot. Candidates who file after Tuesday will be placed on the ballot in the order they file.

Summers will also tell new candidates about a forum scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 8 at the Osage Centre. The Missouri Ethics Commission will go over campaign requirements, such as what language is allowed on literature and yard signs and campaign finance reporting requirements.

Summers also asked that candidates come to the office Tuesday prepared to be patient.

"They might have to wait a little while," she said. "But we're going to be working as quickly and effectively as we can."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

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