Democrats Deborah Daniels and Leslie Schneider cruised to victory in two hotly contested races for Boone County associate circuit judge seats.
Daniels, 56, an adjunct professor of law at MU and a former Boone County assistant prosecuting attorney, beat out Republican Dale Roberts for the newly created Division XI associate circuit judge seat.
Daniels left her job as a chief counsel in Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office to run for the judgeship and spent more than $154,000 during the campaign. She spent far more than Roberts in a race that features no party platforms or campaign promises because they are prohibited by state law.
“I’m happy with the race I’ve run,” said Daniels, who had gathered with supporters and fellow Democrats at Harpo’s, 29 S. Tenth St. “You individually second-guess yourself, but it’s been a great experience and I’m looking forward to being able to facilitate the resolution of conflict in the courtroom and, ultimately, help deliver justice.”
Daniels snagged nearly 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic party primary to defeat attorneys C.J. Dykhouse and Cavanaugh Noce.
Roberts, 53, an adjunct assistant professor of management at MU, relied heavily on his experience as an administrative law judge for the Missouri Public Service Commission in Jefferson City, saying he was the only candidate running for judge with “judicial experience.”
But for much of Roberts’ 12-year tenure on the commission, his title under state law was “hearing examiner,” not judge. The debate over Roberts’ credentials became a key campaign issue during the race, with Daniels distributing fliers to thousands of Boone County residents claiming that Roberts was misleading voters.
Roberts, who watched election returns with other Republicans at the Holiday Inn Executive Center, 2200 I-70 Drive S.W., said he was disappointed by the loss.
“I’m just tired,” he said. “It’s been a long eight months, it’s been a long day, but mentally, I’m ready to go.” Robert said he has no plans to give up teaching but has not thought about his future.
Schneider, a private practice family law attorney, easily defeated Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Connie Sullivan for the Division X associate judgeship and will replace retiring Associate Circuit Judge Chris Kelly.
Schneider, 51, who lost a bitter three-way Democratic primary race in 1986 to Associate Circuit Judge Larry Bryson, used an uncontested Democratic primary to build a substantial war chest. Sullivan spent a large portion of her campaign money in her Republican primary contest against attorney Geoffrey Preckshot.
Schneider was a former part-time Columbia municipal judge for nine years before leaving the bench in 1996 to work full time as a partner in the Columbia firm of Harper, Evans, Schneider and Netemeyer. She emphasized her support for alternative sentencing programs and her strong ties to the community during the campaign.
“It shows that experience pays off, and that Democrats are faring well in Boone County,” Schneider said.
Sullivan, 47, an assistant prosecuting attorney and the former owner of a civil litigation firm in Corpus Christi, Texas, said she was happy with her campaign and called the political process “eye-opening.”
“It was a great race,” Sullivan said. “I haven’t really thought about what’s ahead. I guess I’m just looking forward to getting back to normal and getting reacquainted with my pots and pans.”
Sullivan said she wasn’t sure if she would stay with the Boone County Prosecuting Attorney’s office after Dan Knight becomes County Prosecutor in January. “We all serve at his pleasure,” Sullivan said. “It has yet to be seen what direction he wants to take the office in.”
Associate circuit judges hear misdemeanor cases and felony cases until they go to trial. They also act as municipal judges for Boone County’s smaller cities, such as Centralia, Ashland and Sturgeon, and oversee the small claims court. Under state law, associate circuit judges serve four-year terms and earn $96,000 a year.