news 3 days ago

GOP commission hopefuls reach end of muted campaign

Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo. — Rudi Keller Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo.

Aug. 01--In a regular campaign season, the four Republicans vying in Tuesday's primary for the nomination to oppose incumbent Democrat Janet Thompson for Boone County's Northern District commission seat would have spent a lot of time walking.

There would be parades, festivals and fairs. And door-to-door campaigning through the Columbia neighborhoods and rural communities.

This year, however, all of that changed because of COVID-19. There was no Centralia Anchor Festival, usually held Memorial Day weekend, or Boone County Fair, annually set for July.

And when they have attempted door-to-door campaigning, the candidates said in interviews last week, they have not been welcome. Some people have locked their gates, candidate Sam Boyce said.

"Nobody wants me on their porch," said Brenndan Riddles, who is making his second bid for the office. Riddles won the 2016 Republican primary with 62.7 percent of the vote.

"I knocked on every door in Hallsville, every door in Sturgeon and a bunch in Centralia, well more than half," Riddles said of his 2016 race.

Thompson, an attorney, is unopposed in Tuesday's Democratic primary as she seeks a third term in office.

The Republican primary for the Northern District seat on the Boone County Commission is the only contested local race for any of the five political parties certified to nominate candidates by primary. There are choices in the Republican and Democratic parties for governor and lieutenant governor, a Democratic primary for attorney general and Republican and Libertarian primaries in the Fourth Congressional District.

None of the contests has seen significant spending and no incumbent officeholders have seen major challengers emerge.

The Northern District contest is one where personal contact with voters can make a big difference in the outcome. In 2016, only 4,513 votes were cast in the Republican primary in the district, up from 3,889 in 2012.

With turnout uncertain, and many voters choosing absentee ballots, the four-way contest could be won with as few as 1,000 votes.

In interviews last week, all the candidates pledged to back the primary winner in the fall campaign.

To make up for the limits imposed by the pandemic, the candidates are using social media, and each has a Facebook page devoted to their campaigns.

It is a different kind of campaign, said candidate Tristan Asbury, who got his political schooling working to help his father, former state Rep. Randy Asbury, in elections for the Missouri House and Senate.

Asbury has raised the most of the four candidates – $10,065 – including a $4,000 loan from himself. He is the only one who also has a campaign website in addition to social media accounts.

The most difficult part of campaigning through the internet is the loss of subtle clues to personality that occurs in person, he said.

"We are doing our best to put a face with a name right now but no two conversations are the same," he said. "So, unless you can stand in front of that person and respond to them, directly to the question asked, it's tough."

Jim Musgraves, a retired Navy officer, said he's been working to expand his reach on Facebook and "it has made it more of a challenge whether you have ran before or if it is your first time around. A campaign like this is better for younger folks who lean on social media more than people in their 50s like myself."

The Northern District, officially Associate Commission District 2, includes the towns of Harrisburg, Sturgeon, Hallsville and Centralia as well as much of the eastern half of Columbia.

West of Highway 63 to the north of Columbia, the boundary is a line extending from Prathersville to Howard County. The line turns south and within Columbia, it runs along Range Line Street north of Interstate 70, and, except for a small section, Providence Road to the south of I-70.

The boundary turns east at Rock Bridge Elementary School and continues almost unchanged to the Callaway County line.

THE CANDIDATES

Riddles, first on the ballot Tuesday, is an electrician who cites his experience in construction projects as a plus for the commission.

In the 2016 general election, Riddles received 46.9 percent of the vote against Thompson. He's running again, he said during a public event in Harrisburg last week, to support infrastructure and law enforcement.

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