Election Season Heats Up

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
The Benton County Ballot for the August 7th Primary Election is crowded with candidates for local, state and national offices, but the position of Presiding County Commissioner is the only locally contested political seat.  The four candidates, all Republicans, are Rodney T. Johnson, Bob Meuschke, Steve Daleske, and Jim Hayes.
Rodney Johnson is a farmer on Poor Boy Road, in Edwards. He was born and raised here and is fifth generation on his family farm that was homesteaded in the 1800s. One of his main goals, if elected as Presiding Commissioner, is “to bring some common sense to the table.” He says that he is financially conservative, wants to stay within budget, and believes that we need to analyze our resources carefully and spend those resources wisely.
 “With the big project of the jail coming up, dealing with the bonds and funds generated needs to be handled very carefully,” said Johnson. “I also think we need some real transparency in our local government. Since government is by the people, of the people and for the people, then we need to make sure we are listening to the citizens of Benton County and being transparent. I would also like to get the county more unified. We support three main towns and surrounding smaller ones and each one is important to our future success.”
Johnson said that one of his other main goals is to try to help bring more jobs to Benton County and find more ways to support the businesses that are already here to help them stay in business. 
“We need to generate more money in our county without raising taxes. In order to do that, we need to try to grow our county by bringing in those businesses and more working families, as well as increasing and supporting tourism to attract those businesses. We need to also increase our broadband and tax incentives.  I want Benton County to thrive, not just survive.”
Robert Meuschke grew up in Kansas City and graduated from Grandview HS in 1991. He served in the Air Force Reserves from 1992 until 2002 and became a paramedic in 2005. He has been working in EMS as an EMT, firefighter, and paramedic for 25 years.  He began working for Cole Camp Ambulance in 2012 while he was completing a Bachelors Degree at the University of Central Missouri, and he accepted a position as Administrator of that ambulance district in 2015. 
Meuschke was elected to the City Council in Cole Camp in 2017, and states that he has been able to identify and solve problems within the City, usually ending up saving money in the long run. 
“I have a proven track record of being fair and straight across the board, holding the City accountable to its own ordinances,” said Meuschke. 
He said that he has challenged the “This is the way we have always done it” idea and proved that change can be a good thing for all the people in the community.
“We have many areas of need in the county, first and foremost – the jail,” said Meuschke. “Now that there is a sales tax to fund the jail, we need to make sure that the money is spent wisely and spent on needs vs. wants. It has been said that Benton County is a training ground for many other places, meaning someone can come work here for a short time, get some experience and move on to a better paying job.. The taxpayers in Benton County are footing the bill to train these people to go work somewhere else.  We have lost some very good people over just a few dollars. The county spends more money in overtime than they would have spent just paying a bit more. The largest assets to the county are its employees. The county needs to be investing to keep its employees, to train and outfit them with the proper equipment to do their job effectively.”
Meuschke said that the first thing on his agenda, if elected to the position of Presiding Commissioner, has to do with growth.  He says that if we want to grow, we need to be working with the cities’ chambers, churches and other groups that want the same thing. He said that we have the highest county sales tax of any of our neighboring counties, yet we wonder why we are losing businesses and people. He would like to lower the sales tax rate to get people to want to do business in Benton County.
“Accountability and transparency are two of the most important things that any voter should be looking at when considering a candidate,” said Meuschke.
Steve Daleske moved to Warsaw in the early 1980s and graduated from Warsaw High School. He attended State Fair Community College and belonged to the State Fair Chapter of Future Farmers of America.  He runs a farm on Route MM and has 25 years experience as a Sedalia fire fighter. He served as a Reserve Warsaw Police Officer and worked in residential and commercial construction. He previously served as Benton County South County Commissioner from 2012 until 2016. His primary goal, if elected to the office of Presiding Commissioner, is to keep Benton County going forward and to be financially sound while doing so.
“We have a lot of needs, including the recently voted in new Benton County jail,” said Daleske. “I am eager to see this through, making sure the project can be done right and within the figure that we, the taxpayers, voted in. It is a huge undertaking and I am prepared to take that on. Our County is unique. My goals are basically the same as they were when I was South District Commissioner. Keep moving forward, with not only infrastructure, but with growth and development. It is time that all of Benton County come together, making Cole Camp, Lincoln and Warsaw move in the right direction.
Daleske said that a lot of focus has been placed on the jail project, and many other important issues seem to have taken a step back, such as maintaining and keeping our extensive roads and bridges safe. 
“I first hand know the toll this (caring for roads and bridges) can take on an already tight budget,” said Daleske. Keeping the County working within the approved budget is imperative. I have worked alongside the current Presiding Commissioner as well as the previous Presiding Commissioner and I understand the Benton County Budget process, the policies, procedures and the ability of grant funding and reimbursement process when needed from FEMA and SEMA.”
Daleske stated that he has no problem dedicating the time and effort this will take for his county.
Jim Hayes is a 52-year resident of Benton County who graduated from Warsaw High School in 1974. He worked in his family real estate development business as a licensed realtor after high school and has been involved (with his family) in the building (and later selling) of Edgewater RV Park, and the building of the first country music show in the Twin Lakes area in 1980s. He owned and operated a commercial dump truck for several years and has been heavily involved in an annual fund raising concert for Benton County Hospice. He is also a member and strong supporter of the NRA.
Hayes is interested in talking frankly about the economics of the jail situation. 
“As a homeowner and business person here in Benton County, I pay nearly $8,000 per year in real estate taxes,” said Hayes. “So, any tax increase is of great interest to me. I knew in 2016 how desperately we needed a new jail; but, just as years ago when I was a young man, a similar jail issue was put before the voters, the politicians asked for too much money and we the people said ‘no.’ I was, however, able to support the jail initiative of this year. While never enthusiastic about a tax increase, it seemed a reasonable proposition to at long last provide our citizens with a facility that we need. I view the presiding commissioner’s role as one of financial management. There are many important decisions to be made concerning the construction of our new jail as well as day-to-day operation of the county’s business.  It would be an honor if the people would allow me to represent them and their tax dollars for the next four years.”
Hayes said that the only two promises he has made or will make in his campaign is first to be as frugal with the tax payer’s money as he has been with his own.  If he is elected to the position and serves his four years, then his second promise is to file for re-election to give the voters a chance to grade his performance. 
Republican candidates on the ballot for United States Senator are: Tony Monetti, Austin Petersen, Josh Hawley, Fred Ryman, Christina Smith, Kristi Nichols, Bradley Krembs, Ken Patterson, Brian G. Hagg, Courtland Sykes and Peter Pfeifer. Republicans running for State Auditor are Kevin M. Roach, David Wasinger, Paul Curtman and Saundra McDowell. Republican candidates for U. S. Representative, District 4, are John Webb and Vicky Hartzler; for State Senator, District 28, is Sandy Crawford; for State Representative, District 57, is Rodger L. Reedy; for State Representative, District 125, is Warren C. Love. Also running as Republicans are Michael O. Hendrickson for Circuit Judge, Circuit 30; and Mark B. Pilley for Associate Circuit Judge. 
Six more Republican candidates are running uncontested for the following seats: County Clerk, Susan Porterfield; Circuit Clerk, Cheryl Schultz; Recorder, Carla J. Brown; Treasurer, Rick Renno; Prosecuting Attorney, Karen Coffey Woodley; and Collector, David Brodersen. Republicans Beverly Burnett and Donna Hart-Nolte are vying for the position as Cole Township Committeewoman.
Democratic candidates on the ballot for U. S. Senator are Carla (Coffee) Wright, Angelica Earl, Leonard Joseph Steinman II, John Hogan, Travis Gonzalez, David Faust, and incumbent Claire McCaskill. Other Democratic candidates are State Auditor, Nicole Galloway; U. S. Representative, District 4, Renee Hoagenson, and Hallie J. Thompson; State Senator, District 28, Joe Poor; State Representative, District 57, Joan Shores; and State Representative, District 125, Chase Crawford.
Running under the Libertarian Party are: Japheth Campbell for U.S. State Senator; Sean O’Toole for State Auditor; and Steven Koonse and Mark Bliss for U.S. States Representative, District 4.
Green Party candidates are: Jo Crain and Jerome Bauer for U.S. Senator; and Don Fitz for State Auditor. The only Constitution Party candidate is Jacob Luetkemeyer who is running for State Auditor.
Two non-partisan propositions are on the August 7th Primary ballot. 
Statutory Measure Proposition A allows voters to vote “yes” or “no” to the adoption of Senate Bill 19 (“Right-to-Work”) as passed by the general assembly in 2017. This contested legislation would enact a right-to-work law to mandate that no person can be required to pay dues to a labor union or join a labor union as a condition of employment. A “yes” vote will uphold the legislation. A “no” vote is to overturn the legislation.
The Lincoln Community Nursing Home District Proposition asks voters to increase the annual rate of property tax from 20 cents to 30 cents on the hundred dollars assessed valuation. An increase in the property tax would be used to “maintain high quality, long-term care services for community senior citizens.”