Syler, Kamp will remain on the bench

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

JACKSON, Mo. -- Voters gave convincing victories to Circuit Judge William Syler and Associate Circuit Judge Gary Kamp in Tuesday's Republican primary, assuring they will remain on the bench.

Neither faces opposition in the November general election.

Syler defeated challenger Bryan Keller by a vote of 9,566 to 4,792 in the three-county circuit of Perry, Bollinger and Cape Girardeau counties. Syler won 68 percent of the vote in Cape Girardeau County, winning by 3,570 votes in his home county.

Kamp garnered 56 percent of the vote in his Cape Girardeau County race, defeating challenger Lawrence Kasten by a vote of 5,373 to 4,146.

Even with the races, some voters who cast their ballots at the Arena Building said they turned out to vote largely because of Proposition B, the statewide road tax issue.

Lawanna Eifert of Cape Girardeau had little interest in the judges' races. "That wasn't that important to me," said Eifert, who voted for both incumbents.

But Donna Wigfall of Cape Girardeau said the associate circuit judge race drew her attention. Employed with a private probation service, Wigfall said she voted for Kamp because she thought he has done a good job.

The circuit judge's race had its share of controversy with Keller, an assistant public defender, accusing Syler of being an ineffective judge.

Only days before the election, Keller said that he and other lawyers don't have confidence in the veteran judge and are increasingly disqualifying him from hearing their criminal cases. Keller leveled the charges in campaign advertisements.

Syler quickly dismissed the accusations as "an election ploy."

Eifert said Keller's accusations helped cement her vote for Syler. "They were uncalled for," she said.

Syler was thrilled by his easy re-election victory. "I think the numbers speak for themselves," he said. "I was not surprised to win. I was very pleased to win by the margin I did."

Keller didn't return a reporter's repeated calls to his home on Tuesday night.

Kamp of Burfordville, Mo., has served as associate circuit judge since 1995. Kasten, an administrative law judge for the state, advertised heavily in his bid to unseat Kamp.

Kamp did well in the city of Cape Girardeau, Kasten's hometown. "I lost Cape by less than 100 votes," Kamp said.

Kamp also did well in Jackson and rural areas of the county. "I always felt pretty comfortable in the outcounty," he said.

The judge said an endorsement from a local police officers association also helped his re-election bid.

Kasten said this was his first run for political office. "I didn't know what to expect," he said following his defeat.

Kasten said he campaigned hard for the job. "I think I ran a positive campaign," he said.

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