It’s been a few weeks since the election. It’s time to look at some races and see if we can determine which campaign tactics won and which didn’t. Let’s look at the races for the county Commissioners, Sheriff and Public Administrator offices.
One commonality is that “Word-of-mouth” works. I’ve been asking some folks who they voted for and why. As expected, most said they voted for ‘Pubs across the board. With a 55/45 overall split of the voters in the county for the ‘Pubs, it isn’t unexpected for ‘Pubs to win. I wanted to see if I could find other factors that helped.
Melody Folsom beat her opponent 61% to 38%. A few write-in votes lowered Michelle Cornforth’s percentage. What helped Melody Folsom to beat her opponent so handily? From the responses I received it was her treatment of her clients—she acted like a parent when necessary and her clients responded well to that approach.
Melody Folsom said, in a public forum, that she viewed her position as a service ministry to those in public care. They weren’t numbers in a file folder to her. She knew each one personally and they knew her. In reality, in was those clients—and their families who re-elected Melody Folsom. The client’s families spread the word. When the opposition attempted to use smear tactics, it back-fired.
Michelle Cornforth lost due to two issues—her filing for bankruptcy a few months ago and her performance in the public forums. On first issue, if she couldn’t manage her own finances, how could she be expected to manage the assets of her clients better than her own? It was an important question. The forums were important, too. Those attending the forums made opinions and spread those opinions. Cornforth came across as a cold bureaucrat who had more interest in collecting a paycheck than serving her clients.
That bureaucratic impression affected the Sheriff’s race as well. Dwight Diehl has been Sheriff 16 years. He’s a known quantity and has acquired respect throughout the county. He has created a personal relationship to many of the county’s residents. A family friend told me how Sheriff Diehl personally kept the family informed when a family tragedy struck. That personal attention was appreciated…and spread by word-of-mouth.
Doug Catron, on the other hand, was perceived as a transient. He was using the Sheriff’s position as a stepping stone to something else. He spoke a “making alliances” as if that action was the solution to all ills. The public, on the other hand, viewed it as politicking. Dwight Diehl was seen as the county’s chief law enforcement official whose primary interest was the safety of the county—not his next job.
The Commission positions were different. To some extent, all the candidates were known and most had public resumes. Jim Hoke was the exception. Jeff Cox, running for Presiding Commissioner, was a Raymore city councilman. His opponent was Terry Wilson, long-time mayor of Pleasant Hill. North Commissioner candidate Jimmy Odom was mayor of Belton and his opponent, Phil Ducan, was a past mayor of Belton. Luke Scavuzzo, the current South Commissioner, was a former Missouri state representative and local businessman. His opponent, Jim Hoke, was a local lawyer.
That lack of public exposure was a hindrance that Jim Hoke did not overcome. There were few in southern Cass County who did not know Luke Scavuzzo. There were few in southern Cass County who knew Jim Hoke.
The three winning candidates, Jeff Cox, Jimmy Odom, and Luke Scavuzzo, all had one think in common—ideas and accomplishments. Luke Scavuzzo repeatedly mentioned selling surplus county property to reduce the county’s large debt. Scavuzzo was not involved in the creation of that debt but was seen as attempting to resolve it.
Jimmy Odom spoke of using tax incentives to bring more businesses to Belton. It took little to notice the new Price Chopper, Target, and all the business growth along MO-58. Jimmy Odom seized that growth to project his acumen in drawing business—and jobs, to the county.
Jeff Cox formulated a plan to bring transparency to county government, improve public confidence in the county Commission, and a plan to reduce the county’s debt and resolve the failed broadband initiative. Terry Wilson’s response was, “What Jeff said.” Wilson was appointed Presiding Commissioner last Spring and since that time had yet to do anything to improve the county’s fiscal condition. During the runup to the election, all Wilson did was to repeat Jeff Cox’s talking points. Luke Scavuzzo was appointed like Terry Wilson. He, at least, reminded the public of his acts to resolve the county’s debts. Terry Wilson did not and that cost him the race.
In short, the winning county commissioners had a track record of meeting their public goals. They had a plan, skimpy in some cases, and presented those plans to the public. They were seen as being prepared to act. Their opponents failed to present a plan and had no track record.
The editor of the Harrisonville Democrat-Missourian, John Beaudoin, said, “I am not saying electing a Democrat over a sitting Republican [in Cass County] is impossible. It’s not, and we’ve seen it happen.” Yes, it did happen. Democrat Luke Scavuzzo won the South Commissioner race.
‘Pubs take heed. It could and can happen again if your candidates are unprepared and have no plans to resolve the issues of the day.