JOPLIN, Mo. —
The focus was primarily on state and national politics during the annual Jasper-Newton County Lincoln Days banquet on Saturday in Joplin. But some Republican candidates and current officeholders, taking advantage of the fact that about 350 party faithful were on hand, advanced themselves as contenders in local races.
The early February banquet is where Republican contenders typically announce their intentions — if they haven’t already — by fixing their campaign banners on the wall at the Butcher’s Block Banquet Center or scattering materials on banquet tables.
The gathering comes only weeks before the filing period opens Feb. 25.
On Saturday, there were indications that there will be Republican races for at least a few offices in Jasper County.
Four candidates were on hand for Jasper County associate circuit judge posts to be vacated at the end of the year.
Both Joe Schoeberl, in Division 4, and Richard Copeland, in Division 5, are stepping down because they are approaching the mandatory retirement age set by the state. Schoeberl said he won’t retire but will “repurpose” and hopes to teach.
Attorneys announcing plans to seek the Division 4 position are Mike Roberts and John Nicholas, while Nate Dally and Joe Hensley have declared for the Division 5 post.
It also appears there will be a race to succeed Donna Grove, Jasper County recorder of deeds, who also is retiring. Charlotte Feather Pickering earlier announced she would file, and now Doris Tatum and Ron Hill will join the fray.
Also new to the campaign trail is Marilyn Baugh, who will run for Jasper County clerk to succeed Bonnie Earl, who is retiring. Baugh is not new to the office; she has worked 35 years as a deputy county clerk under six county clerks.
Others announcing or promoting re-election bids were:
• Steve Holt, Jasper County collector, seeking a sixth term in office.
• Richard Webster, Jasper County auditor, seeking a fourth term.
• Melissa Holcomb, seeking her first full term as Jasper County circuit clerk after being appointed to the post to replace Linda Williams, who retired midterm.
State Sen. Ron Richard, of Joplin, reminded those at the banquet that he will seek his second term in the Missouri Senate, and then end his service in the General Assembly as a result of term limits.
Also running for re-election are incumbent state Reps. Bill White, Joplin; Charlie Davis, Webb City; Tom Flanigan, Carthage; Bill Lant, Pineville; Bill Reiboldt, Neosho; and Mike Kelley, Lamar.
Lincoln Days advertising was more subdued among Newton County candidates. Re-election plans were noted by Marilyn Ruestman, presiding county commissioner, and Lenora Hyder, recorder of deeds.
Republicans proudly claim their dominance in Jasper County and Newton County politics, and there was plenty of that at the banquet, with courthouses in the two counties described as “Democrat-free zones” by John Putnam and Nick Myers, who head the respective Republican central committees in Jasper and Newton counties.
That can mean fewer races, if local Republicans can rally around a single candidate seeking an office or re-election.
It also can mean races are abbreviated, because county offices typically are filled in the August primary, even though the results don’t become official until after the November general election.
But fewer and more abbreviated races also can lead to less debate and discussion about county issues and priorities.
I’m not sure that’s such a good thing.
SUSAN REDDEN is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at email@example.com or 417-627-7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.