Primary ballot likely to draw larger turnout of area voters

Sunday, July 28, 2002

By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

Democratic voters who go to the polls on Aug. 6 in Cape Girardeau County will find it's no contest unless they vote for Republicans.

That's because all six locally contested races in the primary election are on the Republican ballot. The winners in four of those six races are assured of victory in the November election because there are no Democratic candidates for the offices of county presiding commissioner, county auditor, Division I circuit judge and Division III associate circuit judge.

Rodney Miller, Cape Girardeau County clerk and chief election officer, believes the lack of contested races on the Democratic side may lead some Democrats to take Republican ballots.

But Nelda Hinton, vice chairman of the Cape Girardeau County Democratic Central Committee, said die-hard Democrats wouldn't vote for Republican candidates for any reason.

"When you are a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat like I am, no way," she said.

Hinton said there's no organized effort to encourage crossover voting.

Tom Cox, chairman of the Cape Girardeau County Republican Central Committee, doesn't foresee a lot of crossover voting either. He does expect the contests to bring a good turnout of Republican voters.

Hot races

Miller said voter turnout for the primary election could be higher than usual because of several hotly contested races, including those for county auditor and state representative for the 157th District, and the statewide road tax issue, Proposition B.

He estimates as many as 12,000 voters, or nearly one out of every four registered voters, may cast ballots a week from Tuesday. The county has 49,324 registered voters, including 25,750 in the city of Cape Girardeau and 8,742 in Jackson.

Voter turnout typically is low in the August primary. Only 7,700 voted in the primary two years ago. In 1998, just over 5,000 cast ballots.

This year's high-profile races locally are led by the four-candidate state representative race in the 157th District, where David Schwab, R-Jackson, is retiring because of term limits.

The candidates are Jackson school board member Gerald Adams, Republican activist Donna Lichtenegger, Cape Girardeau County assistant prosecuting attorney Scott Lipke and Cape Girardeau County Farm Bureau president Tom Sachse.

The winner faces Democrat Chuck Miller and Libertarian candidate Timothy Doubledee in the November election in the heavily Republican district. The redrawn district covers Jackson, parts of rural Cape Girardeau County and most of Perry County, excluding the Perryville area.

With so many Republican candidates running for the seat, Miller said Democrats and independents who cast Republican ballots could be a deciding factor in the primary.

The race for county auditor also features candidates vying to replace a longtime office holder. Either Cape Girardeau City Councilman Matt Hopkins or former Jackson alderman David Ludwig will succeed longtime Auditor H. Weldon Macke, who is retiring at the end of the year.

For the Division III associate circuit judge's race, incumbent Gary Kamp is facing challenger Lawrence Kasten. The judge for Division III handles state traffic violations, misdemeanor crimes, preliminary hearings for felonies and any case assigned by the judicial circuit's presiding judge.

Circuit Judge William Syler is opposed in his re-election bid by Bryan Keller, an assistant public defender. Division I judges generally handle higher profile cases and carry out the administrative duties of the court.

Gerald Jones, Cape Girardeau County presiding commissioner, faces a re-election challenge from construction worker Doug Flannery.

Flannery ran for 1st District commissioner two years ago, losing to Republican incumbent Larry Bock. This time he's running as a Republican, citing the GOP's support of the rights of gun owners as his reason for switching parties.

While Jones has put up numerous political signs and run political ads, Flannery hasn't put up a single yard sign.

Flannery said he hasn't spent any money on the race other than the $50 filing fee. He said he doesn't plan to clutter the landscape with more political signs.

"People get tired of looking at them," he said.

In the only other contested race locally, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson is a heavy favorite in her re-election bid. She's opposed by Richard Kline, who is making his third run for the 8th District congressional seat.

The winner will face Democrat Gene Curtis and Libertarian Eric Van Oostrom in the November election.

Kline lost to Emerson twice before --once as a Republican and once as a Democrat. He said he's spent less than $500 on his campaign.

"It's obvious she's going to win again," he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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