A contentious and often bitter campaign season came to an end Tuesday night when St. Francois County voters came out in droves to vote for their preferred candidates that resulted in a number of Republican victories, and in several cases, the removal of Democratic incumbents from long-held offices.
County Clerk Mark Hedrick, who will be retiring from his office at the end of December, was pleased that the final percentage of St. Francois County voters was even greater than the 60 percent turnout he’d predicted for the hotly contested election.
“We had a voter turnout of 63.3 percent on a midterm election and I like to see that, and I’d like to see that every election, including April,” Hedrick said. “That may be a pipe dream of mine that I’ve had for 16 years to see a big April election, but we’ve never seen one. It was good, but in other areas it wasn’t.
“The election went real well for so many people. I compliment my poll workers. I compliment the voters for not getting too upset because they had to wait in some situations. We had a number of address changes that were all taken care of. They were just moving in the county — which they can still vote — but everybody was able to vote.
“We were very busy in the office. I want to compliment my staff because we were covered up doing address changes and it was just hard to keep up with today — but that’s a good thing — and I don’t mind that.”
Noting that it was Hedrick’s last election to oversee for the county, he said, “Well, it’s sort of bittersweet. I know that I will probably miss it in the future, but I’m looking forward to doing something else. The thing is that I’ve met a lot of people who are good friends now — precinct workers — I’ll miss them and working with them. It’s going to be different.”
In a landslide victory, Melissa Gilliam was elected to the office of St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney over incumbent Jerrod Mahurin with 78 percent of the vote, before certification.
With such a resounding decision from voters, Gilliam said Tuesday night that the will of the people was made clear in Tuesday's prosecutor election.
"I think [the voters] are saying with their votes that the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney's office needs a change," Gilliam said. "I am ready to take on the challenge of giving them the change that they want and need."
Specifically, Gilliam said she intends to reach out to the various individuals and agencies involved in the county's criminal justice system in order to find out exactly what particular needs have been observed.
"My initial goal is to sit down with all the various law enforcement agencies, the judges, the attorneys that are involved in the criminal justice system and get their feedback on what needs to be changed and then prioritize those to begin working on them.
"After I talk with each law enforcement agencies about what they see that needs to be changed, I'm going to sit down and have them all in one big meeting so all of the police officers come and talk about what changes will be instituted, at least initially, when I take over."
Gilliam added that Mahurin had reached out to her to congratulate her on her victory Tuesday night, offering any assistance with her transition into the office.
"Jerrod did call me and he was very conciliatory," she said. "He mentioned that he's willing to help me in any way, shape or form in the transition. That was very nice and I appreciated that."
Reached for comment Tuesday night, Mahurin offered his thanks to those who have supported him and wished his opponent well.
"I would first, like to thank all of the voters of St. Francois County for any consideration they gave me and every other candidate," Mahurin said. "I know there's been a lot of negativity surrounding my campaign and if my losing somehow helps to bring some peace to this county, I'll gladly accept that.
"I certainly love my home, my family and friends, and all it has to offer. I was certainly blessed that I was able to serve the office for 10 years in one capacity or another. I would like to say publicly that I wish Melissa success in her tenure as prosecutor. I know it's not an easy job. I hope she dedicates as much time to it as I did, and I'm sure she will. It takes all that you have and then some. Hopefully, the staff that is there now will make for an easy transition for her here in a few weeks."
Mahurin also requested that those who have taken to publicly defaming him in recent months now cease.
"The last thing that I would like to ask is for the people who have tried to vilify me through this election for the last few months to give it a reprieve," he said. "My wife, my son, my parents and I have suffered drastically through this. The campaign is over. Melissa has won and I certainly congratulate her on her win and wish her nothing but the best.
"But I would ask for a reprieve and to allow us as a county to heal. It's been fractured. It's a residence of 70,000 people, but it's time for all of us to return to letting it be our home."
Recorder of Deeds
Recorder of Deeds Incumbent Steve Grider narrowly lost to his opponent Jay Graff Tuesday night 10,681 to 10,645. Grider held the position for 31 years and he said they worked as hard as they could and the people spoke.
“That is all we can do and we will see what happens with the military ballots,” Grider said. “I appreciate everyone’s support and their vote. I have been very fortunate to be the recorder of deeds for the last 32 years. It has been an honor. I thank people for allowing me to serve them.”
Grider added it was within 36 votes. He thought it may trigger an automatic recount, but wasn’t entirely sure. He said there are also military ballots that haven’t come in yet.
“I don’t know if it will make that much difference or not, but we will just have to see,” Grider said. “You know that you can lose at any time when you run for office, but you hope people understand the job you do and that is all we can do.”
Graf said he really appreciates the clean race through it all.
“We really didn’t get in each other’s face and was a clean run,” Graf said. “Others were doing other things and I just didn’t want to go there. I tried to stay a little aloof to some degree and yet still be completely involved.”
He said there were some real highlights throughout it all that were amazing. Graf said he knows there still needs to be a recount done and will have to wait and see what happens.
“You cross your fingers and stay with it and see,” Graf said. “More than likely they will do a recount if he asks and there might be some other things coming in. It was so close and I can’t believe it. It was amazing and we both worked extremely hard. Congratulations to Mr. Grider, that was a big effort and I know he has been in there for a long time”
Graf said he congratulates Grider for such a long service and it’s amazing what he has done for the county. Graf thanked Grider for the building blocks he has out there and plans to build on top of those moving forward.
Circuit Judge Division 1
After 18 years on the bench, Circuit Court Judge Sandy Martinez lost to her opponent Jerel Poor II 18,183 to 21,723 Tuesday night.
Poor said he knew what the numbers were and he knew what he had to do. He said he is so appreciative for everyone who supported him.
“This was never about me, this was about the people and the differences I had with my opponent,” Poor said. “She was professional and had a whole different philosophy. I am just so thankful that I will be able serve my community in a new way.”
Poor said he wanted to thank Martinez and he felt they ran a very clean race. He said he wishes her all the best.
“I know her primary goal in life is to be an advocate for children and I think that being judge is not really something you can do that,” Poor said. “So I think she has a very bright future ahead of her and I wish her all the best.”
Winning by a margin of more than 1,000 votes, Kevin Engler took the office of St. Francois County Clerk over opponent Andrew Young.
"We're very pleased, obviously, to win," Engler said Tuesday night. "We appreciate the support from everybody and everyone who worked on our campaign. We ran a very clean campaign and Andrew Young did a very good job for somebody who was new at this. He and his family ran a very good campaign."
Engler went on to say that he is ready to get to work as clerk for the people of St. Francois County.
"We're happy to be on top and we look forward to the challenges that lie ahead at the first-class level for the county clerk, and we'll try to get started on that tomorrow."
Associate Judge Division 4
Winning by a margin of approximately 2,000 votes over incumbent Shawn McCarver, Patrick King won the race for Associate Circuit Judge, Division 4. King expressed his thanks to the voters Tuesday night, and said the win is the result of hard work, which will extend into his judgeship.
"First of all, I am so grateful to the people of St. Francois County," King said. "They have demonstrated their faith in me. I have earned their trust, as I told them throughout this campaign. I am so grateful for their support and I am so grateful for all the volunteers and people who helped.
"We knocked on thousands of doors and it paid off. Honesty, integrity, hard work and common sense is all I've ever promised the people of St. Francois County and they believed that message. I will go to work every day for them and it will be my great honor to be their judge."
Dale Wright and Bill Kraemer went head to head for what is Kevin Engler’s current seat. Wright won 9,529 to 5,353.
Wright said he is humbled and honored to be chosen to represent all the citizens in the 116th District, which is made up of parts of St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve and Perry Counties.
“I look forward to taking their ideas to Jefferson City and representing all of our interests up there,” Wright said. “I am just so honored and thrilled to have that opportunity. Only 163 people have the opportunity of representing six million people in Missouri, so it’s quite an honor to able to do that.”
Wright said he looks forward to going to Jefferson City to learn and meet with the other legislators. There are several causes he believes strongly in: right to life, the second amendment and he believes everyone needs to live within means of their revenues.
In the District 117 Missouri House of Representatives race, incumbent Mike Henderson, R-Desloge, won handily over his Democratic opponent Kayla Chick with a vote of 8,159 (71.92 percent) to 3,165 (27.90 percent).
Asked how it felt to win reelection to the state House for a second term, Henderson said, “I think the biggest thing I can say is that I’m proud that they would give me an opportunity to go back up there [to Jefferson City] to represent them for two more years. Hopefully I’ve earned some trust from them over the past two years. I hope to keep earning their trust.
“I think as long as you keep your eye on representing the people — doing what’s best for them and the area — I think you’ll do just fine. I want to thank those that supported me. I really want to thank all of them for participating. It’s really neat that we’ve had so many people participate in this election. I think that’s what the Constitution is about — and I’m just happy we had so many people participate.”
Republican candidate Harold Gallaher also won a second term as St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner when he bested his Democratic opponent Linda Dickerson-Bell with a vote of 11,851 (55.84 percent) to 9,343 (44.02 percent).
Reacting to his win, Gallaher said, “It feels reassuring. We have got a good solid record of success for the county and a lot of things attained and achieved. There’s more to do and I’m really anxious to get on those other items. Now the buildings are established, the finances are pretty well lined out — but we’ve got systems to work on now. That’s the next focus point."
Working with a new slate of elected Republicans, Gallaher admitted he didn’t expect to see any change in the working relationship already in place at the courthouse.
“I’m looking forward to the people I’m getting to work with,” he said. “The interesting thing is that in the courthouse, after tonight you never hear politics again until the election comes up again in two years. We just don’t deal with politics here. If somebody has a problem, they’re a person — not a party. That’s the way we deal with it and it works much better that way.”
Republican Jason Green will be the new Madison County Presiding Commissioner.
“To the voters of Madison County, thank you for your support,” Green said. “I look forward to serving all of Madison County as Presiding Commissioner.”
Voters chose Green by a 3,129-1,273 margin over Democrat April Sarakas.
“I look forward to doing my best to do an honest job and to do the best I can to work with the other county officials to better manage the county’s resources,” Green said.