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Losing candidate in Roberts' last close race didn't seek recount
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Jan. 6, 2009) — In a letter to the editor printed in Saturday’s edition of the Waynesville Daily Guide explaining his reasons for seeking a recount and new election, former Sheriff J.T. Roberts said incumbent Sheriff J.B. King would do the same if their positions were reversed.

“If the difference was on Sheriff King, I am sure he would feel the same as I,” Roberts wrote.

Missouri law allows losing candidates in a race decided by less than a 1 percent margin to file a request for a recount. Final tallies of the Nov. 4 election indicate that Roberts lost by a narrow margin of 38 votes out of 12,884 cast. Those tallies show 6,403 votes for Roberts and 6,441 for King, who has held the office since 2004 when he defeated Roberts in his bid for re-election to a fourth four-year term.

It’s a hypothetical question what King would have done if the results had shown he lost to Roberts, but in the last narrow election involving Roberts, the losing candidate didn’t ask for a recount.

That candidate, Don McCulloch, had been serving as the Waynesville police chief in July 1991 when Sheriff Paul Long resigned due to health issues. McCulloch was appointed by the county commission to fill the sheriff’s vacancy, won a September special election in which he received more votes than the other three candidates combined, but then lost the August 1992 Democratic primary election to Roberts. McCulloch returned to his post as Waynesville police chief in 1994 but ran again in 2000 and lost to Roberts by a 30-vote margin in the Democratic primary.

In the Democratic primary that year, McCulloch received 1,623 votes compared to 1,653 for Roberts, 613 for Mike Weber, 52 for Brian Adams and 45 for Donald Cookieman Cook. That 30-vote margin was within the 1 percent threshold to request a recount, but McCulloch didn’t make that request.

“I accepted the people’s verdict and whether it was one or 500, that was the people’s business and I never gave it another thought. It’s possible to be the winner even when you lose,” McCulloch said.

McCulloch and Roberts are both longtime residents of the Waynesville precinct. However, McCulloch said that in each election, his strength had been based in Waynesville while Roberts did best in the rural northwestern part of Pulaski County, especially Crocker and Richland. Precinct statistics for the August 2000 primary bear that out and show 650 Waynesville voters cast ballots for McCulloch compared to 394 for Roberts, 135 for Weber, 10 for Adams and 7 for Cook.

Would McCulloch have changed his mind if the 2000 Democratic primary were held again?

Probably not, McCulloch said.

“I’ve never given it a second thought,” McCulloch said. “I don’t have any animosity on those elections … It is his right to file for a recount, evidently, and it was my right not to.”

It’s not clear when the circuit court will process Roberts’ request for a recount and a new election, but in his letter to the Daily Guide. Roberts indicated he’s not sure how far he will press the point, either.

“Since I have been paying my own attorney fees for the recount, I may have to make a decision as to how much money I want to invest in a recount,” Roberts wrote. “I too am a taxpayer and it infuriates me when my tax money is wasted. It frustrates me that a few office holders have the authority to put someone in office they want, regardless of what the voters want and regardless of what the law mandates. It makes one wonder if perhaps some wrong doing may have occurred and they don’t want someone to find out about it. Voters have rights and I feel that if they take the time to go vote then their vote should be counted and counted accurately.”

Roberts said the final verdict may lie with the voters in the 2010 elections.

“Maybe the voters will remember this in two years, we shall see,” Roberts wrote.

The sheriff’s race isn’t up for a vote in 2010. County offices up for election that year include County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer and Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall, as well as other county positions that aren’t connected to the county’s election process.

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Click here for a copy of Roberts' court petition

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