The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 2, 2013

Large slate of candidates in Pittsburg could push up turnout

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A steady sleet pouring down just as polls opened at 7 a.m. today may have deterred some voters. But Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle said Monday he was hopeful that competitive races for school board and City Commission seats should boost turnout in Pittsburg, Frontenac and Girard.

Pyle said turnout could be as high as 25 percent.

Mark Johnson, 52, a Pittsburg resident and faculty member at Pittsburg State University, voted at 7:30 a.m.. Out of 3,000 possible voters in his precinct, only 18 had voted by then, spurring Johnson to use social media to encourage others.

Pittsburg has the largest field of city and school board candidates of any race in Southeast Kansas or Southwest Missouri this spring. Eight candidates, including one incumbent, are vying for three at-large positions on the Pittsburg City Commission, and six candidates, including two incumbents, are vying for three at-large seats on the Pittsburg Board of Education.

“Some may not realize it, but local elections are for more important and have far greater impact on us here locally than state or national elections. The ones we choose affect our kids and our cities directly, more than any decision made in Washington,” Johnson said.

He declined to name the candidates he voted for, but said he voted for ones he knew personally and had worked with on numerous committees, community events and other causes.

Cindy Riachi, 43, a Pittsburg resident and part-time teacher, made no bones about her vote. She posted her choices on her Facebook page. Riachi voted for Monica Murnan, Cheryl Mayo and Ralph McGeorge for city commission, and Joan Fields, LaVerne Allmon and Chris Curtis for school board.

Polling places in rural areas reported little traffic Tuesday.

“Some voters here can vote only for Pittsburg school board and the two Wildcat Extension Service representatives this time, not the city commission, because they live outside the city limits, so it’s been slow,” said Joanna Rhodes, election manager at the Elks Lodge polling place. It serves Cherokee, Chicopee, Lone Star, Beulah and rural Pittsburg.

By noon, only 16 had cast votes there out of 1,247 registered voters.