In an unusual move in a county-level election, Rep. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, sent out fliers excoriating the Republican incumbent in the weeks ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
“In county races, especially in primaries, typically people run on their merits, their qualifications, the things they’re going to do when they’re in office,” said Cass County Auditor Ryan Wescoat, who is running for re-election. “Very seldom do we get the negative — the stereotypical national politics or even state politics — very rarely do we get that level of hatred in county races. It’s very surprising and very disappointing.”
One flier sent by Brattin’s campaign committee said that Wescoat was fired from his previous job as deputy auditor for misconduct and that he’s facing lawsuits for discrimination and intimidation, including one filed by the mother of a newborn. It calls Wescoat a bully in big, blood-red block letters with a black-and-white photo of Wescoat gazing into the distance.
Wescoat “promised to restore professionalism but has created a culture of fear,” the flier says.
Brattin, who is running for county auditor after reaching term limits as a state representative, also said his opponent is a career politician who has been abusing his position.
“I don’t want to dignify it with a response,” Wescoat said in an interview Friday.
But he did anyway: He was fired from his previous position while he was investigating his boss for wrongdoing, he said. The boss was eventually charged with official misconduct and forced to pay restitution. Wescoat said the two lawsuits brought up by Brattin are without merit, and he is vigorously defending himself against then.
“This should be a campaign about qualifications, accomplishments and where we see the future of Cass County,” said Wescoat. “I show up every day, and I look at the taxpayers’ money like it’s my grandmothers’.”
State statute mandates county auditors be familiar with accounting principles, and that they have education, practice and experience in the field, Wescoat said. He doesn’t think his opponent meets those requirements.
“This isn’t like Jeff City where you’re one of 100 and something state reps, and if you make a bad decision your colleagues outweigh you and can balance that out,” he said. “In the auditor’s office, you ARE the person. This isn’t a policy position, it’s an operations position.”
“Balancing a checkbook isn’t the same as accounting, and it’s definitely not the same as governmental accounting,” Wescoat scoffed. He petitioned to have Brattin removed from the ballot, he said, but it was dismissed because he failed to have it notarized.
Brattin posted on Facebook that this was a “frivolous lawsuit” and an attempt to “bully others and rob voters of their chance to make a decision.”
Wescoat has spent about $1,500 so far on the race, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents, plus about $3,600 that will be on the next round of forms. Brattin lent his campaign $10,000 and appears to have spent about $25,000 this election cycle; the exact figure is somewhat ambiguous because his campaign incorrectly filled out campaign finance disclosure forms, an ethics commission employee confirmed.
Brattin, a fiery conservative, is not shy about venturing into the most treacherous political landscapes.
In his time as a state representative: Brattin proposed a bill requiring pregnant women seeking abortions to get permission from the father. Following the 2015 protests at the University of Missouri for racial equity, he proposed a bill that would strip student athletes of their scholarships if they participated in a boycott and one that would get rid of tenure for professors at state universities and colleges.
He voted against a law this spring to tighten Missouri’s child marriage laws because of his religious beliefs and last year said that “there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being” during a debate in Jefferson City.