Friday, September 18, 2009

62nd District Nod Seems To Be Anyone's Game


"This is old Missouri politics . . ."

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Saturday's vote to select the Republican candidate for the vacant 62nd State House district appears to be wide open with no clear frontrunner.

Twenty committeemen and women will chose among at least seven Republican candidates who are seeking to replace former Rep. Dennis Wood.

And despite the historically tribal politics of Stone County, members of the 62nd legislative committee do not appear to be united behind a single candidate heading into their 1 p.m. open public meeting Saturday.

"I don't know what the beauty of this position is that everyone's running for," said Cynthia Patrick, a Shell Knob committeewoman. "I mean, they're coming out of the woodwork for this."

Late Friday, 62nd district committee chair Layne Morrill announced a seventh candidate, Mike Bashford, would campaign for the committee's blessing.

The other six expected candidates are Kimberling City Mayor Jason Hulliung, former Taney County Commissioner Ron Herschend, 62nd District vice chair Nita Jane Ayres, businessman Jeff Justus, former Reeds Spring school board member Jeff Sims and Stone County GOP chair Tom Martin.

"I don't think there is a frontrunner," said Ruth Murray, another Shell Knob committeewoman. "I just hope that our party comes together afterward. We get a good candidate and we all get behind him," Murray said.

Most of the committee people contacted by The Notebook Friday said they were undecided and were eager to hear all the candidates speak Saturday.

"I want to hear them all," said Shell Knob committeeman Dick Nierman.

Only Shell Knob committeeman Charles Patrick said he had promised a candidate his vote on the first ballot. But Patrick declined to say who he is supporting.

"This is going to be a long, drawn out process. There are three or four favorites, but I don't think there's any frontrunner. They're all capable and have done good things and have the interest of the county at heart," Patrick said. "This is old Missouri politics, it's just hard to say what's going to happen," he added.

His wife, Cynthia, who also gets a vote, said she's not going to tell anybody how she's going to vote. But she also said that her vote may not match up with her husband's. "We've been married 54 years, but we don't always think alike," she said with a chuckle.

"Our views are usually compatible, but not always the same," she said.

Of the 20 voting committee members, 12 are married couples. Ten are women. Four are from Taney County, but one will be absent tomorrow. Morrill also said that Nellie Wood, former Rep. Wood's wife, is expected to resign her seat on the committee Saturday because she no longer lives in the township she represents.

Another factor to consider is that two of the candidates will get votes as committee members -- Nita Jane Ayres and Tom Martin. But Martin will likely begin with 2 votes because his wife, Nancy, also sits on the committee.

Not much is predictable heading into Saturday's vote. It'll take 11 votes to win. And with at least seven candidates, multiple voting rounds are expected. But since no Democrat has ever represented Stone County in the state House, Saturday's winner is almost surely the next 62nd District representative.

The meeting is set for 1 p.m. at the Kimberling City Community Center.

And going in, it's Martin 2. Ayres 1. The rest, undecided.

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