WOOD BECOMES COMMISSIONER WEDNESDAY
UPDATED 4:39 PM: NIXON SETS FEB 2nd ELECTION
Rep. Dennis Wood's pending resignation of his state House seat leaves an opening for a Branson plumbing supply owner who challenged him in the 2008 primary.
Jeff Justus of L & J Plumbing Supply tells The Notebook that he intends to run for Wood's old seat in a special election early next year.
"It's kind of a surprise. You've absolutely caught me off guard. It's unbelievable," Justus said in an interview.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch's Tony Messenger first reported that Wood, a Republican from Kimberling City, would resign his seat this week to take a position on the Stone County Commission.
The Stone County website said that Wood was expected to be sworn in as Presiding Commissioner at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
That sets the wheels in motion for a special election to fill District #62, which covers Stone and Taney counties. Late afternoon Wednesday, Governor Nixon announced the election would be held February 2, 2010.
"Dennis Wood has been a strong representative for his constituents in Stone and Taney counties, and I appreciate how he has reached across the aisle on several issues important to people he represents," Gov. Nixon said in a statement. "I know he will bring a similar approach of hard work to his new position of presiding commissioner," he added.
Justus becomes the first Republican to announce he'll try to replace Wood. "When I ran the first time I felt I had something to offer the state and district, and that hasn't changed."
"My plan was to run in 2010, but if there's a special election, I'm pretty confident I'll run for it," he said.
Justus said he had heard Wood was interested in the county commission, but was more surprised at how he landed there.
"I'm a little bit surprised the Governor appointed a Republican. That's the biggest thing I'm surprised about," Justus said.
Taney County GOP Chair Buddy Roberts said that Justus had to be considered among the favorites to replace Wood, because his last campaign was geared to improve his name identification and visibility in the district.
In the August 2008 primary, Wood defeated Justus 58% to 42% -- a margin of 837 votes. Wood went on to crush his Democratic opponent Peter Tsahiridis, 73% to 27% in the general.
"I'm interested . . . you've just kind of caught me off guard," Justus said.