Politics Must Be Considered in JeffCo Clerk Proposal

25 Jun

Jefferson County Clerk Wes Wagner, a Democrat, is proposing that the office be changed from an elected one to a system like St. Louis County, with a board appointed by the governor that hires two election directors (one Democrat, one Republican) to run elections for the county. Wagner says in the May 26 Leader that politics are not the motivation for this. It is clear, however, that they give him a strong incentive to get this change approved.

Wagner has been elected county clerk three times, in 2006, 2010, and 2014. In 2006, he won with 56% of the vote, in 2010 he was unopposed, and in 2014 he received 50% of the vote, defeating 2nd place candidate Jeremy Day by 2,500 votes in a 3-man race. Given the electoral trends in the county, it is quite possible that Wagner could find himself on the losing end in 2018.

If the change he is requesting is made, though, he can reasonably expect to be hired as the Democratic election director. That would be a job that would likely offer the same pay as now, but with duties shared between him and a co-director (and all the non-election clerk duties transferred to others). It would also offer pretty good job security. But comments from county council chairwoman Renee Reuter suggest that this idea will not be approved by the council (which would trigger a public vote) this year.

Granted, Wagner has proposed this idea in the past, and it may have some merits, though it would cost more and put the governor in ultimate control. In addition, St. Louis County, which uses this system, had serious issues at the April municipal election.

In denying the existence of political motivation, Wagner says he is confident that he will be re-elected in 2018 if he chooses to run (but all politicians say that). However, in a rank bit of cynicism, he says:

[I]f I were that concerned about party affiliation, I could just switch parties and file as a Republican.

He must think GOP voters are pretty dumb then, that they would just accept that a guy who has been elected clerk three times as a Democrat, was elected to the state House of Representatives four times as a Democrat, and whose dad was elected as a Democrat to be circuit clerk for 30 years, can just call himself a Republican right before the election and win over the party’s voters.

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