Polls close in an hour for hotly-contested county races and two city issues

Darrell Todd Maurina


Polls close in an hour for hotly-contested county races and two city issues

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Aug. 2, 2022) -- When voters go to the polls today, they'll find almost all contested local races on the Republican Party primary ballot. Polls close at 7 p.m., with precincts open in Waynesville, St. Robert, Dixon, Crocker, Swedeborg, Richland, Laquey and Big Piney.

The only locally contested Democratic Party primary race is between incumbent Cullen Township Democratic Central Committeeman Mark Prugh and challenger Wayne Gifford, who have a longtime rivalry and square off most election cycles in what is usually the only contested race for either the Republican or Democratic central committees. Cullen Township is the central part of Pulaski County running from Waynesville through St. Robert and their surrounding rural areas east to the county line near Devil's Elbow.

The most hotly contested race on today's ballot is for the seat now held by Western District County Commissioner Clinton Jarrett, who was appointed last year to fill a vacancy following the resignation of Justin Smith, who was elected in November 2020 but resigned shortly after taking office in January. State law allows the governor to appoint people to fill vacancies in most county offices, but if appointees want to remain in office, they must run for election at the next regularly scheduled election. That is this year, and Jarrett is being challenged by four other Republicans, Andy Helms, Mike Hartley, Terry Richardson and Joe Leuthen. Whoever wins today's Republican primary will win the in the November general election since no Democrats filed for that race.

Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk also faces a Republican challenge from Joe Krill. Elected in 2010, Newkirk has served three terms and is the longest-serving presiding commissioner in many decades.

Republicans also have a choice between two candidates for the Pulaski County Treasurer seat being vacated by Sue Rapone, who was elected in 2010 but is retiring this year and moving out of the county. Two current county employees are running for her seat: Mack Wilkerson, who currently works in the Pulaski County Circuit Court Clerk's office under Rachelle Beasley, and Lorna West, who currently works in the Pulaski County Clerk's office under Dave Ernst. Today's Republican winner will be elected in November since no Democrats filed.

Two municipal races are on the ballot as well.

In Saint Robert, incumbent Ward I Alderman Theresa Cook tied for re-election in April when challenged by Glen Askeland. Both are on today's ballot in a special election that will decide who will fill that seat.

Crocker city officials have placed a $4 million bond issue on today's ballot for "combined waterworks and sewerage system revenue bonds." The city council vote to put the issue on today's ballot was unanimous, with city leaders saying federal and state regulators are requiring the city to upgrade its sewage treatment plant so the money will have to be spent even if voters reject the bond issue. The different, city leaders say, is that Crocker will be required to borrow money at a higher interest rate of votes reject the municipal bond issue.

While both candidates are from outside the immediate area, voters from Pulaski County, as well as other surrounding counties, will decide whether to return incumbent State Senator Justin Brown of Rolla to office for a second four-year term or whether to replace him with current State Rep. Suzie Pollock. No Democrats filed for the seat so whoever wins today's Republican primary will be elected in the November general election.

There will, however, be one locally contested race on the November ballot.

Incumbent Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Hillman, who has served since being elected in 2010, is being challenged by Gifford, a Democrat who was the county prosecutor in the 1990s. Both men are running unopposed for the nominations of their respective Republican and Democratic parties. Gifford has run for prosecutor most years since he was defeated by Republican Mike Headrick, who returned to private practice following the 2002 election and is now the associate circuit judge for the probate division.

Headrick is one of several Republicans running unopposed on today's ballot. Others are incumbent State Reps. Bill Hardwick of Waynesville and Don Mayhew of Crocker; Circuit Judge John Beger whose four-county circuit includes Pulaski County; County Clerk Dave Ernst; and County Collector Terri Mitchell. All will be elected in November since none have a Democratic Party opponent.

Two incumbent Democrats are also running unopposed: Associate Circuit Judge Colin Long for the magistrate division and Circuit Court Clerk Rachelle Beasley. Since no Republicans filed for their seats, both will be re-elected this fall.

Voting locations in Pulaski County are as follows:

* Big Piney: Palace Union Church, 36497 Highway AW
* Crocker: Crocker - First Baptist Church, 600 North Commercial Street, enter at back of church
* Dixon: Dixon Senior Citizen Center, 301 Old Y Road
* Laquey: Laquey School District, 27600 Highway AA
* Richland: City of Richland, Missouri Municipal Government City Hall, 204 East Washington
* St. Robert: St Robert Community Center, 114 J.H. Williamson Drive (across from Tiger Typhoon, **NOT** city hall on Eastlawn Avenue)
* Swedeborg: Swedeborg R-III School District, 17507 Highway T
* Waynesville: The ARK Community & Sports Center, 25625 Highway 17