Springfield Incumbents Dominate in Low Turnout; Mask Issue Dominates Branson Election

The issues of being made to wear a mask to combat COVID-19 appears to have had little impact in Springfield, but massive impact in Branson.

Springfield Mayor Ken McClure dominated in his reelection attempt, topping challenger Marcus Aton by a 66-34% margin. The two incumbent members of City Council who ran for reelection both won with a majority of the vote despite multiple challengers: Zone 4 Councilman Matthew Simpson received 51.6% of the vote; General Seat B Councilman Craig Hosmer earned 57.9% of the vote; both men had a three person race.

Several of the opponents for the incumbents were critics of the city’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the decision to lock down the city and close businesses.

The General Seat A race, which was without an incumbent as Jan Fisk chose not to run for reelection, was won by Heather Hardinger in a four-person race. Hardinger, the first black woman to be elected to the Springfield City Council, picked up 41 percent of the vote. The other race without an incumbent, Zone 1, was won by newcomer Angela Romine by 138 votes.

In Branson, candidates who were firmly against a mask mandate in the city picked up significant wins.

Councilman Larry Milton, who has been a very vocal opponent to mandatory masking and other COVID-19 restrictions, dominated the five way race for Mayor. Milton picked up 52% of the vote, over 600 votes over his closest rival, incumbent Mayor Edd Akers.

Entertainer Clay Cooper picked up a dominating win in the Ward 1 alderman race with 63 percent of the vote. Cooper had previously spoken to the Board of Aldermen against the mandatory masking ordinance.

Incumbent Julia King, the first black woman to serve on the Branson Board of Aldermen, was soundly beaten by Ruth Denham in a five-way race. Denham earned 63.4% of the vote in the win. (Two of the five candidates on the ballot had withdrawn from campaigning.) Denham stated that she was “100% against the mask mandate.”

Election turnout across the Ozarks was very low:

  • Greene County: 13.25%
  • Christian County: 7.91%
  • Webster County: 11.52%
  • Taney County: 11.13%

“April elections have historically gained less attention by voters than November presidential elections,” Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller told OI. “There are many voters who came out today to cast a ballot to let their voice be heard. I appreciate them and encourage voters who may not have voted today to remember how important it is to vote in all elections as important decisions are made that impact their local community.”

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