Thompson, Curtis Claim Close Livingston County (Mo.) GOP Primary Election Triumphs Tuesday

Paul Sturm
An estimated crowd of around 200 people or more gathered Tuesday (Aug. 4, 2020) evening on the east side of the Livingston County Courthouse in Chillicothe, Mo., to view posting of results from the day's primary elections.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Staff Writer

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Half of the four contested Livingston County office races on today’s (Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020) election ballot generated very competitive races left unsettled until the final couple of precincts reported.

In the end, voter turnout of virtually 47% – slightly above county clerk Sherry Parks’ projection late last week and undoubtedly aided by non-customary splendid, mild weather – sent incumbent Republican East District commissioner Alvin Thompson on, unopposed, to November’s general election, and Geri Curtis as the GOP’s candidate and presumptive winner in November’s public administrator’s vote.

Thompson out-polled Roger Barnes 1,153-1,037 in their party’s primary race. The winner’s 52.6% share means, barring unforeseen developments between now and next January, Thompson will be sworn in to a new 4-years term of representing the eastern portion of the county.

“I think the biggest problem we have to work on now is our bridge program,” he said after his reelection was assured. “We need to get the road and bridge crew back working on the bridges and repairing them, so we can have stronger bridges and they last a little bit longer. That’s one of my top priorities.

“The second one is getting our brush cleaned up along the roads, so it will make our roads better. They’ll dry out quicker and they’ll perform better. And have good ditches before the gravel goes down.”

Curtis pulled 1,878 votes (52.9%) to Whitney Ballard’s 1,671 to take the Republican spot on the general election ballot. With no Democrat seeking the position, Curtis likely will become the successor to outgoing administrator Sherry Parks.

Shared the winner on her plans moving forward as, effectively, administrator-elect, “I have talked with Sherry Parks. I would like to ‘job-shadow’ (her) and do some volunteer work, starting next month and until I take office, so I’ll be prepared for what I’m going into.

“That will also prepare the individuals I’ll be taking care of. I won’t be a new face to them by (January).”

“I think, either way, the clients will be in very good care,” Ballard said graciously after the outcome became certain.

The other two Tuesday races – both among Republicans, as well – were runaways. Veteran incumbent sheriff Steve Cox swamped challenger and former Chillicothe chief of police Richard “Rick” Knouse 3,049-759, an 80-20% spread. In a duel to represent the party in opposition to unchallenged Democrat Teresa Sykes for the county collector/treasurer position incumbent Paula McCoy is not seeking to retain, Diana Havens easily out-distanced Kaley Holmes 2,881-856. That’s a 77.1-22.9% margin.

“I feel so blessed,” Havens reacted to her triumph. “Thank you, Chillicothe; thank you, Livingston County, for supporting me through all of this. Absolutely.”

She offered her assessment of the key factors which lifted her to victory.

“I think probably my work ethic, my management experience with my two jobs – 20 years with Casey’s, 10 years with Dollar General,” Havens commented. “Management experience – you carry it all, you carry the numbers, you carry the people, you just carry it all.

“It’s great experience to carry forward into another job.”

She will have to win again in three months to get that job, however.

“I will be just looking to still get out there and do that door-to-door (contact) and meet my friends,” she said of her approach to the general election race against Sykes.

Multiple attempts to reach Havens’ primary opponent, Holmes, for comment the following day were unsuccessful.

In the sheriff’s race, Cox’s victory was never in real doubt once the first numbers rolled in. He picked up 78% support from the 304 votes cast absentee in the contest, very similar to his final 80% total against his fellow former Chillicothe Police Department officer.

“Livingston County’s been great to us. Absolutely love it here, love the job we do,” Cox reacted.  “Very pleased and thankful for the support we have today and every day.”

As for his vision for his new term, he stated, “Very excited about the next four years as sheriff. We’ve got a lot of progress and positive goals (in mind). We’ll see if we can’t make those happen.”

One of the aims he specifically cited was to “build on our teamwork with the (Chillicothe) police and area law enforcement. We want to do certain trainings that would be more beneficial for our officers in the community.”

For his part, Knouse said of the outcome, “I don’t think people like change and sometimes it’s very hard to get them to do that.”

Having retired as Chillicothe police chief a couple of years ago, the son of late former city councilman Richard Knouse indicated he’ll try to find another way to contribute positively to his hometown and county.

“I still like to help people,” he declared.

Some 1,719 Livingston County voters were eligible to help decide whether a Chillicothe Fire Protection District No. 1 should be established through incorporation, whether the proposed tax rate to fund such a district should be approved, and what five persons should serve on the district board, if such an entity came into existence.

Of that total, over 61% weighed in, but produced a divided outcome. Incorporation of such a district was okayed by a decent spread – 576-441 (54-46%), but the 30-cents per $100 assessed property valuation proposed to fund it was nixed by a 580-439 margin (57-43%). All five potential board of director members listed on the ballot – Darrell Wright, Bruce Brodmerkle, David Morris, Ed Daugherty, and Chris Bonderer – were handily approved to fill the five available seats, although there were 20 write-in votes cast for various persons.

For their share of the decision on whether a state constitutional amendment approving Missouri participation in the Medicaid expansion component of the federal Affordable Care Act should be passed, Livingston County voters were heavily opposed – 2,985-1,244 (71-29%). However, the statewide tally on the question finished with approval by a 53-47% margin.

Widening the election lens’ scope, the party primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Sixth District, which includes Livingston County, saw long-time incumbent Sam Graves easily advancing to the November ballot by a nearly 4-to-1 margin overall over his lone Republican challenger. That included a 5-to-1 margin in the county.

On the Democratic side, where five persons pursued the opportunity to oppose Graves, Gena L. Ross out-distanced Ramona Farris with nearly 33% of the tally. In Livingston County, Farris had led the pack with about 35%.

Drilling into the close East District commissioner’s battle, Chillicothe and Rich Hill townships served as Thompson’s stronghold. The second-most-populous precincts combination in the district provided him with 106 votes of his winning 116-votes margin after Barnes actually held a slight edge (544-536) in Chillicothe’s first (northwest) and second (northeast) wards combined. Thompson did carry the second ward by 31 votes.

“I feel real good about it,” the victor said of prevailing. “I campaigned door-to-door outside of our township (of residence) and inside the city and I had good inputs from that and I had a good group (of supporters) out there working for me.”

“Of course, disappointed with the outcome, but I thought the process was good, was fair. It was a good race,” Barnes reflected for the C-T the next day.

“… I went to all but one of the townships (for board meetings) and was able to meet the boards of each one of those and visit with them and learn some of their issues or concerns. I was looking forward to the opportunity and challenge, but it didn’t happen this time.”

Curtis’ 207-votes triumph over Ballard in a duel of first-time candidates hinged mostly on strong showings in Chillicothe’s third and fourth (south) wards (plus 86 margin), Chillicothe ward one (plus 64), and Jackson and Sampsel townships (plus 48).

“Very much nervous, right to the end,” the victor acknowledged.

“… I do want to thank the public and my supporters and the people in the community. I won’t let them down.”

Ballard ran best in Fairview, Rich Hill, Grand River, and Chillicothe townships (combined plus 44).

“It was really close, a little over 200 votes difference. Geri ran a really good campaign,” Ballard commented. “…I feel very confident in the way we campaigned. We had a lot of positive feedback.”

Other county-office candidates who were unopposed on Tuesday’s primary-election ballot in Livingston County beside Sykes included Democrats Kris Daniel (West District commissioner), Steve Ripley (assessor), and Scott Lindley (coroner), and Republicans Dave Mapel (West District commissioner) and Josh Dennis (coroner).

As for state legislature positions serving the county, rural Chillicothean Rusty Black was unopposed in the GOP primary for seventh district representative and will have no Democrat foe in November. In the 21st state senate district, incumbent Republican Denny Hastert also had no foe Tuesday, but will be countered by Mark Bliss of the Libertarian Party in the general election.

Livingston countians rolled with the flow in the contested statewide office primaries.

Local Republicans heavily supported current Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. Democrats hoping to unsettle the GOP-heavy state leadership ranks nominated Nicole Galloway for governor, Alissia Canady for lieutenant governor, and Rich Finneran for attorney general. Each of them carried Livingston County handily.

As daylight finally begins to fade, Livingston County primary election candidates, their supporters, and members of the general public can begin to discern the rear-screen projection of in-progress tabulation totals on the east side of the county courthouse Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020.