Kyle Troutman: Another election in the books

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

I love election day.

Whether it’s municipal, primary or general elections, there’s nothing quite like the anticipation in the newsroom waiting for results to begin rolling in.

From the time polls close at 7 p.m. to the time we get results, usually between 8:30-9 p.m., it’s usually a waiting game — but not on Tuesday.

For the first time since I have been covering Barry County elections, and I’ve done every one since the April Municipal Election in 2014, the county clerk’s office gave us a true race.

Normally, unofficial results are only sent when all 17 precincts have been tallied. However, this time, the Barry County Clerk’s Office sent us results with 3 precincts reporting, 8 precincts reporting, 15 precincts reporting and 16 precincts reporting before sending the final 11-precinct results.

There was 15 minutes that passed between those final two emails, and with how close the sheriff and southern commissioner races had become, we were on the edge of our seats.

In the aftermath of receiving results, there are always two big questions — where was the key geographical area for the winner, and who spent what money and how?

In the sheriff’s race, Danny Boyd trailed in the early stages, as Travis Hilburn did well in the precincts nearest the courthouse, especially in Cassville Rural/Mineral. However, by the time the outlying areas began arriving, we could see the tide turning in Boyd’s favor. Despite him being a Cassville Police Department detective and winning the Cassville city precinct by 65 votes, it was ultimately Monett city, Seligman and Wheaton that secured his new job, winning in those precincts by 201, 67 and 40 votes, respectively.

The southern commissioner race tightened up as the evening went on, but Gene Robbins built too big a lead in the Cassville Rural/Mineral and Exeter precincts to allow Wade Hermansen to catch him in Shell Knob or Wheaton.

Another interesting race to watch was the State Senate District 29 bids by State Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, and newcomer David Cole, R-Cassville.

In a five-county district, we rely on the Secretary of State website for final results, but there was a gleanable prediction from the bi-county area’s choices. Barry County, where Cole should have won big, came in neck and neck with 3,639 for Cole and 3,142 for Moon.

The arrival of the Lawrence County results soon after led to a unanimous newsroom prediction — a win for Moon.

Moon pulled in 4,335 votes from his home county to Cole’s 2,564. That 1,771-vote margin in Lawrence to Cole’s 497 in Barry was pivotal to Moon’s 1,684- vote victory. Only 25 votes in Cole’s favor separated the two in McDonald County, and Moon took Stone by 322 and Taney by 113.

Ultimately, what won the election for Moon was his classic, southwest Missouri, small-town approach.

He knocked on doors.

Much to our surprise — and his — Moon outspent Cole in this election, pumping in $178,000. Cole dropped $38,000 from his campaign, and the Southwest Missouri Conservative Values PAC added another nearly $70,000 to his bid.

Cole’s money was spent on mailers, fundraising, advertising and digital media, including $30,000 from the PAC to American Viewpoint in Alexandria, Va., for research purposes.

Moon did spend more than $60,000 in mailers, which he timed to be sent out as close to the election date as possible, but there was another big part to his strategy in hiring campaign workers.

Moon hired seven campaign workers, costing him a total of about $10,800 to manage his primary effort — a ground game of about 50 people going door to door.

This is the strategy that pays off.

Receiving a fancy piece of mail with pictures and points about one candidate over another, and all the endorsements, is fine and dandy. But, having a candidate, or someone on behalf of the candidate, on your porch answering your questions about his platform is more valuable than any amount of stamps ever could be.

Gene Robbins channeled a Barry County treasure to put it best.

“Emory Melton always told me if I was going to run for office in Barry County, I better buy a new pair of shoes and get to walkin’,” he said.

Even in the age of digital media, this mantra still holds true.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.