Ballots in Southwest Missouri Include Many Uncontested Races

Nov 3, 2014

George Connor, MSU Political Science Department Head
Credit Scott Harvey / KSMU

Southwest Missourians on Tuesday will choose among four constitutional amendments, a congressional seat, and various county positions, among others. And among the state Senate and House seats on the ballot, many have already been decided.

It should be a relaxing evening for incumbent senators Bob Dixon and Jay Wasson, as well as incumbent representatives Eric Burlison and Jeff Messenger, among others. All are among more than a dozen area candidates– all Republican – running unopposed on Tuesday.

Missouri State University Political Science Department Head Dr. George Connor says the figure does not surprise him.

“The nature of the southwest of the state of Missouri has become increasingly Republican, [it’s] moved ever so slightly to the right with respect to the ideology. And so I think while everyone wants two-party elections, the demographics of southwest Missouri are not two-party competitive,” Connor says.

That could make for a tough race for Democrat Charlie Norr, the House incumbent for the 132nd District. It’s a seat Connor says has been a wild card as of late.

“Charlie Norr held the seat, and before him it was a Republican. And then Charlie Norr lost the seat to Melissa Leach and now Charlie Norr got it back again. And so I think that’s still a toss-up.”

His opponent, Fred Ellison, is likely better funded and organized this time around than the Republicans were the last time, Connor says.

In Greene County, Connor predicts that Republican Shane Schoeller has the edge over Democrat Rusty Aton, and Republican Bob Cirtin will likely be the next presiding commissioner.

“If it was just Springfield, then like the Charlie Norr seat there may be a toss-up. But because Greene County includes so much of suburban Springfield, which is decidedly Republican, I don’t predict the Democrat winning. I’ve been wrong before.”

Cirtin faces Democrat Donna Bergen and Libertarian Benjamin Brixey for the post to succeed current Presiding Commissioner Jim Viebrock, who is not seeking another term.

At the Congressional level, there’s been some criticism for the way Billy Long has run his campaign, after refusing to debate his Democratic and Libertarian opponents, Jim Evans and Kevin Craig. But “conserving resources,” as Connor puts it, shouldn’t halt Long’s re-election bid.

“This area of the state [7th district] is becoming more Republican and less two-party competitive. And so a Democrat will garner 30-40 percent just by definition. But to actually win, that’s a significant challenge.”

Missourians will also choose whether to amend the state constitution four times, including a proposed change to teacher tenure policy. Despite supporters for Amendment 3 withdrawing campaign efforts, Connor feels this item will encourage the most participation because of its controversy and the continued efforts of the opposition groups.

Constitutional Amendment 10 would limit the governor's ability to withhold money temporarily from the budget each year. State Rep. Todd Richardson, who sponsored the bill to put the amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot, says it would allow the legislature to have a role whenever any Missouri governor oversteps his or her bounds.

If passed, Connor believes while it would add another wrinkle to the process of balancing a budget, he doesn’t think the net result is going to be significantly different.

“It could also be this is cutting off your nose to spite your face, that they’re [Republicans] punishing a Democratic governor because of the way he’s handled the withholding, and they might tie the hands of a Republican governor that they support.”

With just one statewide race on Tuesday’s ballot, Missouri auditor, Connor feels it won’t take long after the votes are tallied that the focus shifts to the 2016 governor’s race.

Statewide voter turnout for Tuesday is estimated to be fewer than 40 percent.