Primaries will decide three Jackson County Legislature races

07/27/2014 10:00 AM

07/27/2014 6:29 PM

Promising newcomers and solid veterans are featured in most of the Aug. 5 elections for the Jackson County Legislature.

In three races, the primary will determine who earns a spot on the Legislature because no opponents in other political parties filed for the November general election.

The Star’s recommendations in the five contested races:

1st District at large: Two Democratic candidates with different skill sets are running to replace Theresa Garza Ruiz.

Both Frank White and Sherwood Smith have offered this community years of public service. White, a former All-Star player with the Royals, has been active with many charities. Smith has been a union representative for local firefighters while also promoting positive causes, such as a higher minimum wage approved by Missouri voters.

In interviews, White and Smith both make good cases that they would be hard-working legislators.

One of White’s primary strengths is his ability to serve with no strings attached. He appears to have a passion for making sure he will work well with others on the Legislature, while asking questions when needed. His main challenge will be to get up to speed on budget matters and other key topics facing the body.

Smith says he wants to be more “hands on” and possibly challenge County Executive Mike Sanders’ leadership on some matters. Given his strong past ties to the fire union, which represents assistant prosecuting attorneys for the county, Smith might face conflicts of allegiance, giving voters pause. He says he would follow legal advice if a conflict arose, such as on funding the positions.

Overall, voters who want a steady voice of reason, unswayed by outside forces, have good reasons to select Frank White in the primary. The winner faces Republican Weldon Wray Woodward in the fall.

2nd District at large: In 2010, Democrat Crystal Williams battled powerful forces to unseat veteran politician Henry Rizzo, promising she would help restore trust in the Legislature. She has been true to her word. Williams is passionate about finding good ways to improve the county and has made a strong effort to keep in touch with constituents. Her opponent in the primary is Shere Alam. The winner will face Republican Robert Stringfield and Libertarian Cisse Spragins in November.

2nd District: The forced resignation of James Tindall removed the long-time legislator from the race, now contested by Democrats Alfred B. Jordan, Sterling L. Brown and Zachary L. Berkstresser.

The newcomers offer different strengths. They include Jordan’s background as a lawyer and accountant; Brown’s enthusiastic approach to the job and his support for better drug treatment programs funded by the county; and Berkstresser’s focus on improving neighborhoods.

Overall, Sterling Brown gets the nod in this race because of his passion for service and sincere desire to serve constituents. No Republican or Libertarian filed for this seat.

4th District: The incumbent, Democrat Dan Tarwater, has been on the Legislature since 1994. Tarwater was part of the troublemakers during more tumultuous times. But he has been more restrained in recent years and worked better with colleagues. Gary Amerine is the other candidate. No other party fielded a candidate.

6th District: The only Republican contest pits incumbent Bob Spence against Theresa Galvin. Spence is well known for asking pointed questions about some projects brought to the Legislature. One highlight came last year when he voted against placing a medical research sales tax on the county ballot, saying he wasn’t sure that was the government’s function. Voters overwhelmingly defeated the tax. Spence, first elected in 1998, deserves re-election. No one else filed for the position.

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