Bruce Symes Republican primary election win Tuesday signals a change in county leadership, regardless of what happens in the general election in November. Symes defeated incumbent Third District commissioner John Brocker.
Brockers loss guarantees at least two commission seats and potentially all three could change hands. Two seats are up for election Nov. 6, and the third soon will be vacated by resignation.
Third District Republicans decided in favor of Symes by a vote of 317 to 227, a 58-42 percent margin. That sets up a general election contest with Steven Henderson, a Democrat and newcomer to both Allen County and politics. The Third District covers much of Iola and two townships, South Iola and Bassett City.
Voters in the First District in November will make a choice between an incumbent, Republican Jerry Daniels, and challenger Mike Bruner, a Democrat. Both are from Humboldt. Daniels won his seat in 2014 by a coin toss. He flies helicopters and is a former police officer and highway patrol officer. Bruner retired from teaching history for 40 years in the Chanute school district.
The First District covers most of the southern part of the county including the cities of Humboldt, Elsmore, Moran and Savonburg, as well as the townships of Cottage Grove, Elsmore, Humboldt, Logan, Marmaton and Salem.
The remaining commission seat, which isnt up for election until 2020, soon will change hands as well. Commissioner Tom Williams resigned effective Aug. 17. Republicans are expected to gather Aug. 14 to select a replacement, who must be approved by the governor in a process that is typically a formality.
The Second District includes part of Iola, Gas, LaHarpe, Mildred and six townships, Carlyle, Elm, Deer, Geneva, North Iola and Osage.
Tuesdays primary election and advance votes brought 2,119 total voters, or about 25.35 percent. Allen County has 8,360 registered voters. Voters were allowed to mail ballots until noon Tuesday, which means some votes could be outstanding, but County Clerk Sherrie Riebel said she doesnt expect to receive many of those ballots.
Symes brings 23 years of experience with The Iola Register and is now a teacher and tutor at Allen Community College. He said previously both jobs have provided him exposure to county responsibilities, including the budgeting process, the landfill and law enforcement, construction of the new jail and the years-long ambulance discussion.
He spent much of the summer walking through his district, knocking on doors and talking to voters. He estimated he talked to about 500 residents, not including attendance at local events like the Allen County Fair.
He said he expects to continue to meet with voters as he campaigns for the November election.
Its very humbling to win a tough election like this. Mr. Brocker was a formidable opponent, Symes said. I have so many people to thank, beginning of course with those who voted for me and also those who helped me in other ways with creative ideas and labor, good counsel and encouragement, and financial support. Thank you all very much. Guess Ill sleep on this victory tonight and look forward to November starting tomorrow.
In the general election, hell face Henderson, who recently moved to Allen County. At a candidates forum in July, Henderson said his years of living in St. Joseph, Mo., and Rogers, Ark., showed him the benefits of strategic planning and investing in local business.
Brocker, a longtime Realtor, was appointed to the County Commission in March after the resignation of former commissioner Jim Talkington.