Members of the 144th Legislative Democrat District Committee met Thursday, October 12 at the Iron County Courthouse in Ironton to nominate and elect a Democratic candidate for a special election set for Feb. 6, 2018. The meeting was also designed to allow interested members of the district (that includes the counties of Iron, Washington, Reynolds and Wayne), to place their own names in contention.
By the end of the evening the committee had unanimously voted for Annapolis resident Jim Scaggs. No other candidates sought the nomination and no other nominations for the position came from committee members.
Scaggs will face an as-yet-unnamed Republican candidate in the February 6 election for the 144th Legislative District seat formerly occupied by Rep. Paul Fitzwater of Potosi. Fitzwater resigned to accept Governor Eric Greitens’ appointment to the State Board of Probation and Parole.
Scaggs interest in the position was not a surprise. He resigned his chairmanship of the Iron County Democrat Committee at a recent meeting to allow his candidacy. He retains a county committee membership, but abstained from the vote Thursday evening.
In his remarks accepting the nomination, Scaggs called next year’s election “an opportunity” for local Democrats. He noted that the circumstances of the special election encouraged his candidacy.
“Several years ago the voters of Missouri voted in term limits and Paul’s (Fitzwater) seat would have been expired in 2018, and we would have gone through the normal election process – the primary and general election process – which would have given everybody who wanted to run the opportunity to file for office,” Scaggs said. “With the special election, it is left up to the Central Committees of the Democrat and Republican parties. I’m glad (District Committee Chair) Jordan (McLaurin) kept the meeting open to the public. It allows anyone to come in and file for this position if they want it. And, trust me, I know the chairmen (of the county Democrat committees) went back and tried to recruit a few candidates and have been trying to recruit some candidates to run for some time.
“This is a great time for us to tell our story. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been in Jefferson City off and on for the last 30 years. I will do my job. I work hard and I’m fiscally responsible when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars.
“This is a good way to get back involved in how we can make everybody’s life better whether you are a Republican or Democrat. When you are elected to office you don’t just serve one political party, you serve everyone. We must get back to that. There is too much bickering, too much animosity between the parties, and we can’t even have a normal conversation anymore.”
Scaggs said he hopes to break that trend toward divisiveness.
“I’m a fair person and most people will tell you I’m pretty passionate when I get involved in something I believe in,” he said. “Right now I believe our state is going in the wrong direction.
“Rural Missouri is dying. Just look at Main Streets, schools, look at the businesses. Our tax base is leaving, our counties are poor and the poorer they get, the more local tax monies we need because they are cutting off our revenue at the state level.
“We had an issue recently with our sheriff not getting reimbursed for jail prisoner board bills in a timely manner and that has put a hard financial strain on our county, and Reynolds, Wayne and Washington counties are in the same boat.
“If we win this election – and we will win – you will have a voice on the House floor. This is an honor and a privilege.”
Scaggs said he plans to file the necessary paperwork for the election on Monday with the Secretary of State’s office in Jefferson City.
“Ron Vance, one of my strongest supporters here in Iron County is going to be my (campaign) sign man,” Scaggs said. “We have less than 80 days and the election will be here. With Thanksgiving, and Christmas and New Year’s, we will lose a good three weeks of that campaign time.”
McLaurin asked “everyone in the room” to do “whatever we can to help Jim.”
“I think we have a good candidate,” said Wayne County Committee member Bill Nelson. “I believe that rural people are beginning to see that Trump is not what they voted for and that Republicans are not taking them in the right direction on the state level or the national level. We have the right message and the right man. Let’s get in there and do whatever we have to do.”
In an interview Friday afternoon, Scaggs answered one of the obvious questions Iron County voters would like to have answered: What happens to his present position of Presiding Commissioner of the Iron County Board of Commissioners?
“For the County Commission, the biggest responsibility is the county finances; the budget,” he said. “We will start working on the budget in November and have it completed by December and then submit it to and have it approved by the state from mid to late January. We have already started that process this year.
“Once it is done, you can’t make any changes to the budget without the revenues and I don’t see any new revenues coming next year. So once the county office holders’ budgets are approved, they are in charge. The county office holders do such a good job anyway, that they don’t need to be managed on a day-to-day basis. They are very fiscally responsible. So I’m not really worried, and I don’t think the citizens should be worried about that.
“If I am successful in the special election of Feb. 6, I would take office on Feb. 7. It would be up to the Governor whether or not he wanted to fill that vacancy. I don’t know whether he would do that because the election sign-up begins in February and ends around the end of March. But if he decides to do so, he would then contact the County Republican and the Democrat Committees to make a recommendation to fill the position.
“During the last three years we have been very strict on our budget, very lean, and we will continue that into next year. We told the taxpayers when we asked for the sales tax that we needed to build a reserve of around $300,000, and we are going to build that reserve. Once the reserve is built, the following year we have some capital projects that we must do, so we will budget those and spend money appropriately.
“The commission has established a very good working relationship. I’m not concerned at all and I don’t want the citizens to be concerned.”
Christy Roberts, the Republican Chair of the 144th Legislative District Committee and the Reynolds County Republican Committee Chair, has called for a nominating committee meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Reynolds County Courthouse.