Candidates snub sweltering temps to face off at Liberty Park

By Pat Pratt

July 22, 2014

In what may be the last public forum before the Aug. 5 primary, candidates took the hot seat — literally, as temperatures approached the 100 degree mark — at a candidate fair hosted by the League of Women Voters Tuesday afternoon in Liberty Park.

“I think considering the weather and everything it is a good turn out,” said Mary Merritt, of the League of Women Voters. “In the background you can hear the people talking which is good. The candidates have some of the same positions and some are different and (the people) need to know what they’re voting for and have some idea of what they’re going to get when the candidates get to Jefferson City or down to the courthouse.”

As opposed to a traditional question and answer forum, the league structured the event so each of the candidates present would speak and then return to their tables so the public could ask them questions individually and in a more private setting. Merritt said it was done this way because of the number of candidates present.

Considering the sweltering heat, the public made a good show and appreciated the chance to meet the candidates.

“If you don’t go out and meet and greet and see who is out there, you have no idea who you’re voting for. Or even have a concept of who to vote for. This is just as good a way to do it as any and the League of Women Voters do a good job with it,” said Greg Boswell, small business owner and Pettis County voter.

Candidates in many of the contested primary races and even some running unopposed were on hand to talk with the voters. All four of the candidates on the Republican ticket for Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney attended as did both candidates for Associate Circuit Judge Division 6. Both candidates for presiding commissioner were also available to answer the voters’ questions.

Over the past month, the Democrat has profiled each of the candidates in contested races in the Aug. 5 primary. With only two weeks to go to the election, how are the campaigns shaping up?

Two people with years of experience in the court room will face off for the GOP nod for Associate Circuit Judge Division 6, Jeff Mittelhauser and Stanley Cox. The winner will face Democrat Carmen Smith, who was also present at the event, in the November election. Both GOP candidates said they are happy with the way their campaigns are going so far.

“We are very encouraged by what we hear and we are trying to use that encouragement to keep working hard,” Mittelhauser said. “We are going to keep pushing for the remaining two weeks to reach a successful result.”

“Just working every day, meeting people. Tomorrow I’m going back to hit some doors,” Cox said. “I’m going to hit the hottest day of the summer, maybe, but that’s life. That’s all you can do at this particular point, just try to meet as many people as possible.”

With no competition from opposing parties, the Aug. 5 primary will decide who will take the position of Prosecuting Attorney for Pettis County. All four candidates — Myron McNeal, Andrew Rehmer, Kim Tanner and Phillip Sawyer — said they feel confident the election will swing their way.

“The campaign is going really good. We’re ready for the last two week stretch,” McNeal said. “We’re hitting doors, I’ve got two or three people out every day hitting different areas of town and trying to do as much as I can. And we’re ready to wind it up.”

“It’s going good as expected,” Rehmer said. “I’ve been knocking on lots of doors and meeting lots of great people.”

“I think it’s going well. I feel strong about it, the reaction I’m getting in the community is positive,” Tanner said. “People are agreeing that the needs that I see and want to address are the needs that need to be addressed.”

“It’s going great,” Sawyer said. “We’re getting a lot of positive feedback, a lot of support. People are really reaching out to us. I’m thankful, of course, and I’m surprised at how many people will take the time to reach out to us. I feel very good about it. Most importantly, I’m amazed at how many people have taken the time to compare the candidates to make up their mind.”

Both candidates for Pettis County Presiding Commissioner, David Dick and Pam Carter, were on hand and happy with the campaign trail thus far. Whomever wins that race Aug. 5 will face Democrat Kenneth F. Schuber in the General Election.

“Well, it’s been interesting,” Dick said. “My father has been in the hospital so the last couple of weeks we’ve been back and forth there but we’re trying to get back and hit it pretty hard at the end. It’s all about engagement. The people have to see you.”

“It’s going fantastic,” Carter said. “It’s been great getting out there and meeting all the people and seeing people you haven’t seen in a while and meeting some new people. It’s very positive.”

The primary election is Aug. 5 and Pettis County Clerk Nick La Strada said he’s ready and expects a hefty turnout.

“Two weeks out and we’ve got absentees going right now. Last I checked we were at a little over 300 absentees received in the office and it looks like it’s going to be a pretty good turnout,” he said. “I don’t want to give any wild numbers but I’m thinking roughly between 26 to 30 percent turnout. Predominately primaries are always lower turnout but with the judge’s race and the prosecutor’s race and the other races, people are really starting to get involved in it.”