COLUMBIA - Cathy Richards won the Democratic nomination for Boone County public administrator on Tuesday, setting up a November general election contest against Republican John D. Sullivan.
Richards gathered with about a dozen supporters at her home to watch the returns. Family and friends were eager to share in her victory, and Richards was quick to credit her success to those who encouraged her.
"I know one thing: elections aren't won by yourself," Richards said. "We just worked really hard. Now we'll continue to work really hard and continue to take nothing for granted, just like we have been doing."
Richards defeated Democratic opponent Dan Dunham by a margin of 10,274 votes to 2,679, or 79.3 percent to 29.7 percent. She was the only candidate endorsed by 16-year incumbent Connie Bell Hendren. Sullivan was unopposed in the Republican primary.
"I think everyone can see the sincerity," Richards said. "This job does mean a lot to me, and the clients of Connie Hendren are really important to me."
Across town, in a more somber atmosphere at Boone Tavern, Dunham concluded the evening with family after visiting the election parties of several other candidates. He was unwilling to concede late in the evening, even as the returns showed him lagging significantly.
"I've enjoyed running and meeting people in Boone County," Dunham said about his candidacy. "I ran an honest race, and I think I'm the best candidate."
Dunham and Richards worked hard to gain name recognition with voters, but the campaign for public administrator failed to garner the same level of attention that other races received, in part because of the nature of the office. Few people know what the public administrator does and who the incumbent is.
For the record, the public administrator cares for the estates and affairs of those who are unable to do so themselves, namely the deceased, incapacitated or disabled people who have no legal guardian, conservator or competent assistance.
Richards grew up on a farm in northern Boone County. After raising four children, she attended but did not complete nursing school. She graduated from William Woods University with a degree in business and is now enrolled at Stephens College, where she is pursuing a master's degree in counseling. She is the office manager for the Boone County Commission.
Dunham is originally from west-central Illinois and came to Columbia when he attended MU. He completed master's work in social science, then returned to Boone County to study law at MU. He is a lawyer with Carlyle Foley.