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Clay County Voters Choose Experience In Commission Primaries

Aviva Okeson-Haberman
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Neither Western Commissioner Gene Owen nor Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway ran for re-election.

November’s general election will likely change the direction of the Clay County Commission. It’s the first commission election since a state audit requested by thousands of citizens started looking into the county.

Editor's Note: Within hours of announcing the results of the Clay County Commissioners election, The Clay County Board of Election Commissioners discovered voting discrepancies and decided to conduct a recounton Thursday, August 6th.

UPDATED, 12:30 a.m. — Clay County voters backed county commission candidates calling for more transparency and regaining citizens’ trust during Tuesday’s primary election.

The general election will pit Democrat Dustin Bell against Republican Megan Thompson for Eastern Commissioner. Democrat Cathy Rinehart and Republican Lydia McEvoy face each for Western Commissioner. With two of three commission seats up for grabs this election cycle, the direction of the commission will likely change. Neither Western Commissioner Gene Owen nor Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway ran for re-election, and both typically voted in lockstep.

Western Commissioner

In both the Republican and Democratic primary, voters largely backed candidates who have experience in county government.

In the Democratic primary, about 73% of voters selected current county assessor Cathy Rinehart over state Rep. Jon Carpenter. Rinehart has more than two decades of experience working in county government and has been a sharp critic of the current commission. However, she previously told KCUR that she didn’t sign the petition for the state audit because she “predicted the fight that would come from the commissioner’s staff with lawsuits to stop, stall, and delay this audit.”

County collector Lydia McEvoy won a packed Republican primary. McEvoy helped gather signatures for the state audit requested by citizens and wants to “restore the proper hierarchy of county government” by having the commission make “major decisions” during public votes. In a statement, McEvoy said she was grateful to be part of an "excellent slate of conservative candidates" and that she's looking forward to "a better day in Clay County beginning
January 2021."

Eastern Commissioner

County clerk Megan Thompson won the primary with about 61% of the vote. Thompson focused her campaign on “ending the corruption and wasteful spending of the current commission.” She supports ending spending on state lobbyists and doesn’t want the county to hire “high priced lawyers to fight the state audit.”

In a statement, Thompson thanked voters and said "together we can work toward a county government of which we can all be proud of." Thompson faces Democrat Dustin Bell in the general election. Bell ran unopposed and is a dental assistant.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman was the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3.
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