Friday, Nov. 09, 2012
Cass County voters make picks for multiple local races
Republicans lead race for county seats
By Bethany Bashioum
Cass County voters have made their picks for a new Cass County Commission during the General Election Nov. 6, among several other county seat decisions.
The Commissioner winners will join a body that in the past two years has seen its fair share of turnover and fiscal turmoil, and with lots of work ahead of them in getting problems in the county’s broadband and bio-gas projects reconciled.
Attorney and Raymore City Councilman Jeff Cox, a Republican, won the Presiding Commissioner seat with 56 percent of the vote to unseat Democrat opponent Terry Wilson, the current presiding commissioner appointed to office by Gov. Jay Nixon in May.
“I think it was a strong win and I commend my opponent because I think he ran a clean race and he acted honorably throughout the duration of the campaign,” Cox said. “It was a hard-fought race. I think we both ran on the issues...and I believe Terry is committed to a smooth transition.”
Cox, 37, will serve the two years remaining of a four-year term left vacant by Republican Herschel Young who was booted from office because a past felony conviction that was brought to light just moments after he took office in 2010.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We need to make sure we budget conservatively, we need to focus on our spending priorities, focus on the fundamental services, and I’m also committed to improving transparency in county government, as well.”
Belton Mayor Jimmy Odom, also a Republican, received 61 percent of vote against Democrat challenger Phil Duncan, to win a four-year term ticket to the District 2 (North) Commissioner seat to replace Commissioner Brian Baker who did not seek reelection.
“I think we got our work ahead of us,” Odom said. “As a new unit, I think we need to sit down, go through the budget, overview that, and hopefully be apart of that process.”
Odom, 57, said he believes his expertise to the Commission will be the focus of economic development, as he has been involved with as mayor for the past 11 years.
Odom will resign as mayor as soon as he is sworn in as commissioner in January 2013.
Belton will elect a new mayor in April.
To round out the commissioners table, voters elected Democrat District 1 (South) Commissioner Luke Scavuzzo, 56, to stay in office for another four years, a position he was appointed to in January when Bill Cook, a Republican, resigned.
Scavuzzo, a Harrisonville resident and former state representative, received nearly 56 percent of the vote against his Republican challenger and longtime friend Jim Hoke.
“I’m looking forward to working with everybody and getting the county back in shape,” Scavuzzo said. “I think getting appointed and getting the nine months into it helped me understand the county and some of the situation that they are in.”
Sixteen-year incumbent Dwight Diehl, 67, of Belton, easily captured the majority vote against former Harrisonville police lieutenant Doug Catron for another four-year term as Cass County Sheriff.
Diehl, a Republican, won with 68 percent of the vote.
“I’m very appreciative of the support the county has given us over the years,” Diehl said. “We’re going to continue to keep people safe and continue to move the office in a manner provides good service.”
Republican Incumbent Melody Folsom, 51, won 61 percent of the vote of Democratic challenger Michelle Cornforth for public administrator.
“I was so thrilled and so thankful to the Lord, and the voters, and I think it’s a win for the people that I am guardian of,” Folsom said. “I love them to death, and I love what I am doing as Cass County Public Administrator.”
Republican Steve Cheslik, 48, was reelected to the seat he has held for the past 12 years as treasurer by 65 percent over Democrat challenger Larry Kalwei.
“I’m very excited about the results and it’s an honor to be reelected,” Cheslik said. “We have two new commissioners that are going to need a lot of help being brought up to speed on where the county is financially and I look forward in helping them understand the budget, revenues and trouble spots.”
Judge William (Bill) Collins, 55, a Republican, has been reappointment to the bench as the Division 1 Circuit Judge in the 17th District, representing Cass and Johnson counties as Associate Circuit Judge.
He beat Chase Higinbotham with a 66 percent of the vote for a six-year term.
“I just appreciate all the support that I got from the people of Cass County,” Collins said. “It confirmed what I hope that I have been doing for the county over the last 18 years.”
Bob Huston, 45, ran an uncontested race for reappointment as Cass County Assessor, a position he has held since 2007.
He earned 98 percent approval from voters.
“I am very thankful that I didn’t have an opponent this year and I am going to continue to serve the citizens of Cass County and work hard for them,” Huston said.
Retired Harrisonville teacher and alderman Donna Pfautsch, a Republican, led the race for the District 33 House race against Democratic challenger Ron Harvey of Lee’s Summit with 63 percent of the vote.
According to Harrisonville City Administrator, Pfautsch’s seat on the Board of Aldermen will be appointed by Mayor Kevin Wood, and must be approved by the board.
In District 37, Joe Runions, a Democrat, earned almost 58 percent of the vote over Republican challenger Nola Wood, while in District 57, Republican Wanda Brown captured the same margin over Democrat opponent Don Bullock.
Republican Incumbent Chris Molendorp, Belton, took 64 percent over Democrat challenger Patty Johnson in the newly drawn District 56, while Republican Rick Brattin, also won 64 percent of the votes against Democrat Jim White for District 55.
In the race for a senate seat in District 31, Republican Ed Emery, of Lamar, beat Drexel Democrat challenger Charlie Burton, also with 64 percent of the vote.
Constituents voting for their representative for the U.S. House of Representatives elected Republican Vicky Hartzler with 60 percent of the vote against Democrat opponent and Cass County Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Hensley.
Cass County Clerk Janet Burlingame reported that 67.9 percent of the 72,609 registered voters in the county participated in the election.
Of the voter turnout, 3,793 absentee ballots were cast prior to Election Day.
The percentage of voters participating in the 2012 Election was down slightly from the 2008 General Election, by about 3 percent, Burlingame said.
Burlingame said that Election Day ran smoothly, and wanted to publically thank the 430 people, including County Clerk staff, election judges, and information technology assistance, who helped with the election process.