Government & Politics

One third of Jackson County Legislature guaranteed to change hands

The primary election isn’t until August, but even before Jackson County voters cast their ballots, this much is certain: The makeup of county legislature is going to see its biggest change in decades.

At least three of the nine seats will be filled with newcomers. Incumbents Fred Arbanas, Theresa Garza Ruiz and James Tindall are stepping aside. The first two for personal and political reasons, respectively, while Tindall was forced out of the race by the county prosecutor.

Arbanas cited health reasons in not running again for the 3rd District at-large seat. He’s been on the legislature since it was formed in 1973. And while he still enjoys the work, all those hits he took on the gridiron for the University of Michigan and then the Kansas City Chiefs have taken their toll, Arbanas said.

Garza Ruiz, meanwhile, is preparing for a Kansas City Council run rather than seek a third, four-year term representing the 1st District at-large.

Both will step down at the end of the year.

Tindall’s retirement, on the other hand, is another matter. More than a month after filing for re-election, he withdrew from the 2nd District Democratic primary race without explanation. A few days later, he announced that he would resign on June 30, six months before his term ends on Dec. 31.

It was that or see Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker take steps to force Tindall from the seat he’s held since 2007. Missouri state law forbids federal felons from running for or holding public office, and Tindall had served prison time for a 1999 tax fraud conviction.

While he’s sorry to see Tindall and the others retire, longtime legislator Dennis Waits says change can be good.

“You’re always happy for some new ideas and new energy,” he said.

Normally, those injections of fresh ideas come in ones and twos. Since 2007, there’s been only one newcomer elected, Crystal Williams in 2010.

The last time at least three seats changed hands was in 2006, thanks to one retirement and two incumbents who lost in their party primary bouts.

Conceivably, there could be even more than three newcomers elected in 2014, should one of the six incumbents lose a re-election bid.

Scott Burnett, this year’s chairman of the legislature, doubts that’s going to happen. Certainly it won’t in his case. Burnett of Kansas City is without an opponent for the 1st District Democratic primary and has no challengers on the ballot for the general election.

Similarly, Blue Springs Republican Greg Grounds of the 5th District is unopposed.

Waits of Independence, too, will skate through the Democratic primary for his 3rd District seat, but is set to face two challengers in November: Republican Raymond Wilson and Richard McKie of the Constitution Party

Now here’s a quick rundown of the candidates who’ve filed for the Aug. 5 primary in competitive races:

2nd District

With Tindall out of the race, the remaining Democratic candidates are Sterling Brown of Raytown and Zachary Berkstresser, Alfred Jordan and former legislator Ron Finley, all of Kansas City.

Conceivably one of them could be the incumbent by then. The legislature will pick someone to fill out the rest of Tindall’s current term one month ahead of the primary.

No candidates from an opposition party filed to run, so the primary will decide the election.

4th District

Incumbent Dan Tarwater faces Gary Amerine in the Democratic race. The winner will then get a pass in the general, as no one else filed. Both candidates are from Kansas City.

6th District

Incumbent Bob Spence, a Lee’s Summit Republican, is up against newcomer Theresa Galvin of Kansas City in the GOP primary. No one from another party is running, so this race will determine the election.

1st District At-Large

Former Kansas City Royals player Frank White of Lee’s Summit is up against Sherwood Smith of Kansas City in the Democratic race. The winner will face Republican Weldon Woodward of Levasy.

2nd District At-Large

Crystal Williams, the first-term incumbent, is running against Shere Alam in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican and former legislator Robert Stringfield and Libertarian Cisse Spragins in the fall. All list Kansas City addresses.

3rd District At-Large

The winner of Democratic primary race between Tony Miller of Lee’s Summit and Rubou AlSous of Kansas City will take office in January. No opposition party candidates filed.