Clerk candidates spar ahead of election

Republican Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks (left) and Democratic challenger Brianna Lennon take questions from a moderator Tuesday evening. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

Boone County's two county clerk candidates on Tuesday said a belief in the importance of voting led them to run for office.

Republican incumbent Taylor Burks is running for a term of his own after finishing out the term of the late Wendy Noren, who resigned in June 2017. Former Gov. Eric Greitens appointed Burks to fill the office until the next scheduled clerk election, which is now a month away.

Burks, who oversaw voting for deployed servicemembers while in the Navy, said civic engagement was his passion. He said his highest priority is clean elections.

Lennon, an attorney specializing in election law whose resume includes stints at the attorney general's office and the secretary of state's office, said her priority is communicating with voters in a timely, accessible way.

The candidates staked out similar positions on a number of issues. Both said they support the idea of early voting and both pledged not to endorse any candidate or ballot issue, citing the clerk's position as the county's chief election authority. Additionally, the two candidates said they oppose the use of apps such as Confide to conceal communications by public officials and they oppose charging any fees for public documents beyond those incurred as a result of diverting staff to fulfill an open-records request. The county clerk is the county's custodian of records in addition to his or her election duties.

Lennon criticized Burks' decision to close the polling location at the Oak Towers Apartments, a low-income housing project, due to low turnout.

"The choice of polling place is not an easy one and it's something that needs to be holistic and more than just looking at numbers on a spreadsheet," she said.

Burks replied his office assigns polling locations based on turnout and does not close any without bipartisan input.

Burks, in turn, criticized Lennon for accepting donations from what he characterized as far-left groups.

"It is important that our elections are run without partisan interference, but when you're accepting those endorsements, you can't really sit here with a straight face and say you're going to do that," he said.

Lennon replied putting voters first doesn't have an angle and she is pleased that some groups recognize the importance of good election oversight.

The county clerk's race is one of five offices in Boone County for which there is a contested election. The other four are the races for presiding commissioner, recorder of deeds and a pair of judges' races. All of the contested county elections are between one Republican and one Democrat.

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