The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 28, 2014

Write-in votes may decide Carthage City Council posts

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Carthage voters in April do not now have a single choice to make in filling posts on the City Council. Mayor Mike Harris and three ward council members are unopposed in running for re-election.

But no candidate has filed for the 2nd Ward and 3rd Ward council seats, meaning those could be filled by write-in candidates. If the posts aren’t filled by a write-in ballot, Harris said, he will appoint members to fill them after the April 8 vote.

“I’m bothered by the lack of people filing and my hope is we’ll get good (write-in) candidates who will run,” Harris said Friday. “It’s difficult to find people who are willing to serve.”

The seats to be decided now are filled by Don McLaughlin in the 2nd Ward and Brady Beckham in the 3rd Ward. McLaughlin was elected two years ago and did not seek an additional term. Beckham was named recently to fill a post held for years by John Studebaker, who moved out of state.

Harris said he is hopeful that Beckham will run a write-in campaign.

In past elections, a single Carthage City Council post has been decided by write-in votes. But Lynn Campbell, city clerk, said this is the first time she can recall in her 11-year tenure that write-in ballots could decide two of the five council seats up for a vote.

“It takes some effort because you have to get your name out there,” she said. “Then you have to explain to people how to write in your name and complete the ballot.”

That’s what Jim Swatsenbarg did when he first ran for City Council from the 1st Ward in 2011. He ended up facing another write-in candidate and won by 16 votes.

Swatsenbarg said he had not filed for council but decided to run at the encouragement of some members of his church who also were involved in city government.

“I was close on time, so I put a sign in my yard, took out an ad that ran for one day and went door-to-door as best I could,” he said.

Swatsenbarg said he has never regretted the decision, calling service on the council “a good experience — you learn a lot.”

He said he believes part of the reason people don’t run is that they are “disappointed with politics, overall.

“You also see it in how few people turn out to vote in elections,” he said.

He said he hopes some write-in candidates will step up between now and the April 8 election.

“We need people whose goal is to earnestly support the citizens of Carthage,” he said. “If they have that in their heart, they absolutely should run.”

Other candidates

Other city council candidates running for re-election are Kirby Newport in the 1st Ward, Lee Carlson in the 4th Ward and Jason Shelfer in the 5th Ward.


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