COLUMBIA — Greg Engel knows all about the atypically close nature of this year's Boone County Republicans central committee elections.
“One vote,” he said when asked about how close the race was for the Ward 5 committee member seat. In the Aug. 7 primary election, Bruce Cornett got 399 votes to Engel's 398. David Bruce Clark received 263 votes.
On Tuesday, Cornett went on to retain his position as Republican committee chairman. The Ward 5 committee member race was one of 13 committee seats contested on the Republican side. Several were close. Peggy Eskew, for example, won the Perche Township committeewoman seat 127-126 over Julie Patterson.
The Democratic central committee had its share of upheaval in the election as well.
Janice Faaborg said she had “pretty much decided” to run for the central committee before finding out at a committee meeting that she lived in Katy Township, the same township as then-chairwoman Phyllis Fugit.
Faaborg beat Fugit 133-105 for the township's committeewoman seat. The committee elected Homer Page as its chairman on Tuesday. Fugit had been the chair since 2004.
In the aftermath of the intraparty contests, both parties’ committees are focusing on the future. Each committee wants to build its respective party’s strength in the long term, and members say they want to make a difference in the upcoming November elections.
Faaborg said she wants to find new ways to get more Democrats into office.
“I want things to change,” Faaborg said. “We need to get out of the old way of thinking and catapult into the 21st century. I don’t have an agenda. I just want for everyone to be more active in Democratic politics and to work harder to get more Democrats elected.”
Page listed increasing voter registration and a higher participation rate in elections as two of his top goals for Democrats. He also said pushing Democratic candidates to work “much more collaboratively” in small ways can lead to big victories for the party.
“I think we want to increase circulation of literature, especially our newsletter,” Page said. “We want to increase the amount of volunteers and activities in our headquarters. I think those are the types of goals we want to have, and we want to continue to win elections.”
The Republican committee has similar goals. Steve Athans, who lost to 47th District state representative candidate Mitch Richards in the Columbia First Ward committee member election, said Republicans remain united despite the close contests on Aug. 7.
“Philosophically, it would probably be that this is just kind of like siblings that look at the same thing — only a little different,” Athans said. “We’re all in it to move forward and have a Republican president take the White House in 2012.”
As with the Democrats, the Republicans want more voter involvement. Anthony Lupo, who lost a bid for Columbia Second Ward committee member, said the high level of participation among voters in the committee elections is a good sign.
“It just seemed to me that there was just a lot of interest this year, and people were anxious to participate in the process,” Lupo said.
Cornett described local Republicans as “energized” and said he was encouraged by the turnout and tightness in the committee race.
“I think it’s due to the fact that more people want to get involved formally,” Cornett said. “That’s a good thing.”
He also sees an opportunity to recruit college students into the party. He said he thinks young voters are swinging toward the right side of the political spectrum.
“I think there are a lot of college kids that are becoming extremely concerned about their future and the debt being laid on them and their children,” Cornett said. “I think as a result of that there are more and more young Republicans who want to get the size and scope of the federal government reduced.”
The Democrats are eying students as well. Page said he plans to increase local party enrollment by capitalizing on student interest in politics.
“I think that if we do a good outreach on campus and have an active campus Dems group, people who are interested in politics can have a better knowledge of how to hook on, how to get involved in the county party,” Page said. “And I think there are probably a lot of students who are interested in doing that.”
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.