Please honor our veterans tomorrow!!

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Tomorrow is Veterans Day and I have the honor of living in the founding city of Veterans Day, Emporia. Veterans Day is a day to honor veterans, both living and dead and those who are presently serving our dear country. These veterans are the reason why we have the freedoms we have today. The reason why we can take pride in our country. They fought and died in the name of our country. And they still are. Whether you believe in war (present or past) you still owe gratitude to these veterans.

This Veteran’s Day I want to stop and honor two veterans who have passed but who touched my life greatly: Warren Ashen (my grandfather) and Robert F. Clarke (a dear, dear friend of mine).

I’ll start with my grandfather. My grandfather taught me so much. He taught me love, patience and instilled in me a love of life and reading. He’s the one who encouraged me to read my first novel “Where the Red Fern Grows.” My grandfather was gracious, giving and a strong father figure in my life. He was gone all too soon. I lost him in my sophomore year in high school. His loss has left a permanent hole in my heart. I treasure the letters I have from my childhood that are handwritten by my grandmother. At the end of each she wrote “grandpa says hi.” Grandpa, you are forever missed. I love you.

Robert F. Clarke we lost just this year in March. He was a very dear friend of mine. Again, a very kind, funny and gracious person. His love for life, biology and the world around him inspires me. Tomorrow we will get to visit his grave. The day we buried him is the day that hole in my heart became even bigger. “Daddy O II” I miss you. I love you. You’ve inspired me so much with your witty laugh, your sense of humor and your caring attitude.

Who among you has inspired you? I urge you to honor your veterans tomorrow, put aside your differences and opinions. Shake their hand. Say thank you. We owe them so much.


The Gazette’s election blog

This taken from on election night:

Election Night 2008 –

The results are in.


Provisional ballots

Lyon County has 552 provisional ballots still to be tallied. With the county clerk’s candidates just 131 votes apart, it’s possible that race could change.

And, depending on what precincts the provisional ballots are in, another close race that could be impacted is the 3rd District commission seat where Chris Bartel and Rollie Martin are separated by 114 votes.

Coffey, Greenwood

Well, I spoke too soon. Coffey and Greenwood counties just faxed their results to The Gazette newsroom. So, here are totals for the races that pull part of Lyon, Coffey and Greenwood counties. Remember that these numbers don’t include provisional ballots. Results are not official until the canvasses on Friday morning.

• Jim Barnett picked up another 613 votes in Greenwood County to Kitty Frank’s 207; in Coffey County, Barnett pulled 1,532 votes, and Frank took 439. Total for all three counties: Barnett, 9,664; Frank, 4,754.

• In Greenwood County, Peggy Mast picked up 342 or 63 percent of the votes; challenger Carol Strickland took 190 votes. Over in Coffey County, Mast garnered 2,776, and Strickland took 775. The totals for all three counties were 6,254 for Mast and 2,793 for Strickland.

• Finally, 36 voters in Coffey County weighed in on the USD 252 ballot question. The total on the question, 748 yes and 559 no.

Stay tuned

Brandy’s headed back to The Gazette newsroom from the courthouse. First she’s making a diet Coke run for us.

She says that Lyon County’s write-in votes and provisional ballots are being counted right now. Karen Hartenbower, Lyon County Clerk, and her staff will be staying at the courthouse until that’s done.

Keep watching the Web site. As Bobbi and Russ return, they’ll be filing stories from party headquarters and the candidates on their wins and losses.

More from around Kansas

For those who care, the Nancy Boyda-Lynn Jenkins race is too close to call. With 6 percent of precincts reporting, AP says Jenkins has 48 percent of the vote, Boyda 46 percent. Now, that’s close.

Also, we’ll be checking with Greenwood and Coffey counties to try to get final numbers in the Peggy Mast-Carol Strickland race. Historically, however, we haven’t had those results until the morning. Election workers in those counties count votes until the wee hours of the morning. They have our gratitude.

Final Lyon County results:

The new county commissioners are Teresa Walters and Rollie Martin. Tammy Vopat is the new county clerk, according to the unofficial results.

Sen. Jim Barnett retains his seat, defeating Democratic challenger Kitty Frank by a 65-35 margin. In Lyon County, Rep. Peggy Mast carried the vote, 3,136 to 1,828 for Democratic challenger Carol Strickland. The USD 252 ballot question to change the makeup of the school board passed 58-42 percent.

And in Lyon County, Pat Roberts defeated Jim Slattery 57-40 percent; Rep. Jerry Moran defeated James Bordonaro, 65-36 percent. And John McCain narrowly defeated Barack Obama, 6,429 votes to 5,622.

8:16 p.m.

AP has just called the U.S. Senate race for Pat Roberts over Democratic challenger Jim Slattery.

From the Lyon County Courthouse, 8:06 p.m.

The Lyon County Commission chambers has a large group gathering. There are whispers of the current electoral vote with Obama and McCain. I’ve had several curious visitors to my computer. Many express surprise at the results. Nationally, the electoral vote is 174 to 49 with Obama on top.

Community members and several candidates are anxiously awaiting the next round of local results and several people are glued to a scrolling screen that is running the results live.

Tidbits from exit polls, according to AP:

• Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, was a big factor in the voting — in both directions. A third of Republicans and about the same share of conservatives said McCain’s choice of the Alaska governor as his running mate was an important factor in deciding who they’d support. Underscoring how well she fired up the party’s base, both of those groups leaned heavily toward McCain. But her choice had the opposite effect on other voters: About a quarter of independents said Palin’s selection had an important impact on their decision, and nearly six in 10 of them were supporting Obama. Nearly half of moderates also said her choice was a factor — and six in 10 of them were Obama voters.

• Remember the doubts about what Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters would do when the Democratic primaries finally ended? That question has been answered — and resoundingly in Obama’s favor. Nearly nine in 10 voters who said they’d voted in the primaries for the New York senator and former first lady said they were voting for Obama.

• More than a third of voters said they most wanted a candidate who would bring change to Washington, and they were voting heavily for Obama. Nearly as many said they wanted someone who shares their values, and six in 10 of those voters preferred McCain. About one in five were looking most for experience, a group that heavily favored McCain. A smaller portion were seeking a candidate who cares about people like them, and they favored Obama.

Across Kansas

With 1 percent of precincts reporting, McCain leads Obama 64 to 33 percent; Sen. Pat Roberts has an overwhelming lead over Democratic challenger Jim Slatter, 67 to 30 percent.

National changes

CNN is reporting that North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole has lost to the Democratic challenger. Dole is the wife of former Kansas Sen. Robert Dole. This is the same seat held by Republican Jesse Helms before Dole was elected.

From the courthouse:

The advance votes are in and these candidates lead: Obama, Robers, Moran, Barnett, Mast, Winter, Bartel and Dorcey. The USD 252 ballot question has yes votes ahead by 46 votes. Brandy Nance is uploading results directly to the Web site. She reports that her computer is popular.

“I’ve got a crowd around my computer off and on,” she reports. “I’m the only one with access to the national elections!”

Brandy says there are about 20 people watching returns. Lyon County Clerk Karen Hartenbower expects the largest voter turnout in her tenure. Hartenbower is retiring in January. Democratic candidate Mike Dorcey and Republican Tammy Vopat are vying for her job.

Filed by AP at 7:21 p.m. CST:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama, seeking to become the first black president, moved ahead of Republican John McCain Tuesday night in the race for the White House in a country clamoring for change. Fellow Democrats picked up a Virginia Senate seat and elected a Missouri governor.

The AP made its calls of individual states based on surveys of voters as they left the polls.

Obama had Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusets, Maryland and New Jersey, as well as the Distirct of Columbia, for 78 electoral votes. McCain had challenged in none of them.

McCain had Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and South Carolina, for 34 electoral votes. Obama conceded them from the outset.

The nationwide popular vote also favored Obama, who was gaining 53 percent to his rival’s 47 percent.

Filed by AP at 6:51 p.m. CST:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama was winning handily among women, blacks and Hispanics, while whites supported John McCain, according to preliminary exit polls.

Obama also was the overwhelming choice of the one in 10 voters who went to the polls for their first time Tuesday — a racially diverse group of mostly twentysomethings, half of whom call themselves Democrats.

Just over half of white voters overall were backing McCain — a group that had favored President Bush over John Kerry by 17 percentage points in 2004.

McCain, 72, also got support from just over half of senior citizens, coveted for their vigilance in going to the polls.

McCain also drew strength from white, working-class voters, exit polls showed. Whites who haven’t finished college were giving him heavy support, but short of the 23-point margin by which Bush won their vote in 2004.

What Kansans have to say, according to AP:

“I was quite pleased to see that people are taking this election seriously. I voted for Obama — I thought he had a better tax break for the middle class.”

— Charles Mayernik, 60, of Wichita, who retired from the Air Force and favored Barack Obama’s plans for getting out of Iraq, beefing up Afghanistan and going after Osama Bin Laden. He also voted for Pat Roberts and Todd Tiahrt because they were for the Boeing tanker bid.


“Obama has a silver tongue in his mouth, but his background speaks louder than his words. I don’t trust him.”

— Marti Jeffers, 80, a retired secretary in Olathe, who voted for John McCain in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe. She and her husband, Warren, 82, voted together.


“I kind of believe in income redistribution and I like Obama’s promise for national health care, but I doubt it’s going to happen.”

— Jacob Lecuyer, 23, a laborer from Olathe, who said he was voting in his first presidential election.


“I’m afraid McCain would be like Bush. I don’t want any more of the same.”

— Carolyn Loux, 62, postal worker from Olathe, who said she voted straight Democratic ticket.


“He has a terrific record as a maverick. He doesn’t follow party discipline, party lines. And he can reach across the aisle.”

— Shelby Smith, 81, of Wichita, a lobbyist in Topeka for Crimestoppers and a school for the deaf who voted for McCain. Smith, a former Kansas lieutenant governor during the late 1970s, also voted for Roberts.


“I am very staunch McCain for his war activities and security protection. Without security, the rest of the stuff down the line on the economy is out the door.”

— Bryan Schultz, 61, of Wichita, a retired postal worker who also liked having Palin on the ticket. He called her “a fresh face,” saying “she hadn’t been mixed up with all the insiders.”


“We need to get rid of Bush. I’m tired of Republicans being in control.”

— Helen Wagle, 51, of Wichita, a teacher, who voted for Obama.


“I think he will lead our country the best. He is a very intelligent gentleman. I think he will seek out the wisdom of others who are experts on the different needs of our country.”

— Carolyn Bryant, 59, of Wichita, a retired teacher and a registered Republican, who voted for Obama. She said her husband works as an engineer at Hawker Beechcraft — a company that announced Monday it was laying off nearly 500 workers. But she said she had planned to vote for Obama even before the layoff announcement.


“I am a firm Democrat in a number of issues — probably most important is foreign policy. I agree with his economic beliefs as well.”

— Cooper Phillips, 23, of Wichita works in marketing and Web design, who voted for Obama. He was mostly interested in the presidential race and tended to leave the other races blank on the ballot.


“It is all about giving emphasis to the middle class and the lower-middle class, whom the Republicans seem to forget about. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work.”

— Paul Hotchkiss, a 44-year-old historical restoration painter from Topeka, who drove 13 hours from New Mexico to return home so that he could cast his ballot for Obama in time.


“I like McCain but I can’t stand Palin. He chose her, he lost my vote. The first night I heard her I didn’t like her.”

— Dorothy Reffitt, 73, of Roeland Park, who takes care of her 54-year-old son paralyzed in a diving accident when he was 15. She voted for Obama.

The election isn’t over in Lyon County

Check my blog live from the Lyon County Courthouse this morning. Nope…it’s STILL not over in Lyon County.

10:39 a.m.

It will be after lunch before Lyon County knows who the new Lyon County Clerk will be. The final 69 provisional votes are being counted. There will be a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today. There is a 58-vote difference between Vopat and Dorcey.

“They are counting as we talk,” Hartenbower said. “That (county clerk’s race) might change. We don’t know.”

Candidates will have until Monday to decide whether they want to challenge the results.

Other races that were close was the county commission races.

“The previous winners are still the winners,” Hartenbower said, adding that the remaining ballots will not change those results.

10:27 a.m.

With the candidate margin narrowed, candidates express their feelings on the pending results.

“All we can do is just wait for the results,” Vopat said. “It’s very, very intense.”

With all but 69 provisional ballots counted, Vopat has a slight lead over Dorcey.

“What’s happening is what we expected to happen,” Dorcey said. “ that provisional ballots would help me but the question was how much. At this point it’s looking like it (won’t) be enough.”

Dorcey has the option to challenge the results. He didn’t say whether he would exercise that right. He said it depends on what how the final numbers end up.

10:15 a.m.

All but 69 provisional ballots have been run through the tabulator machine. This narrows the Lyon County Clerk race between Michael Dorcey and Tammy Vopat to a 58-vote margin. Vopat is still ahead of Dorcey. The remaning ballots will have to be hand counted and those will not be ready by 10:30 today, when commissers are set to re-convene.

9:30 a.m.

Commissioners have recessed for an hour to allow time for the provisional votes to be tabulated. There are 458 provisional ballots that will be counted and 60 of those will have to be hand-counted. Results from the hand-counted votes likely will not be known today.

9:10 a.m.

Commissioners and verifying numbers of each polling place with Lyon County Clerk Karen Hartenbower. This is done by verifying the total number of signatures and how each person voted.

9:08 a.m.

Commissioners have voted 3-0 to not count 109 provisional ballots for various reasons including voters not registered in Lyon County or Kansas, voters not on the DMV records, one had an error on the touch screen and one filled out a registration form after the deadline.

9 a.m.

Lyon County Commissioners have voted to count nine ballots of 26 original ballots that were hadn’t been put in either the count stack or the suggested no-count stack. The nine that the commissioners voted to count were five that were received after Nov. 4 but were postmarked before Nov. 4; two that were received after Nov. 4 by service personnel but were postmarked by Nov. 4; and two that were returned to polling places.

Commissioners are now looking at the remaining provisional ballots.

8:55 a.m.

Of the 109 provisional ballots that Lyon County Clerk Karen Hartenbower suggested not be counted, eight people failed to provide identification documents when voting or afterwards.

“We can’t prove that they are who they say they are,” Hartenbower said.

Hartenbower suggested that the others not be counted for various reasons including refusal to complete a registration card, not registered in Lyon County or Kansas, not on the DMV records, one had an error on the touch screen and one filled out a registration form after the deadline.

8:45 a.m.

The Lyon County voting canvass is underway. Commissioners have voted 3-0 to count 458 provisional ballots. They have not voted on what to do with an additional 109 provisional ballots.

The provisional ballot breakdown is as follows:

Out of 458 provisional:

• 332 moved with a previous registration in the county; completed a new registration form

• 4 married with a previous registration in the county; completed a new registration form

• 13 married and moved with a previous registration in the county; completed a new registration form

• 9 registered and advance voted at the same time while registration books open

• 4 provisional ballot erroneously administered by board worker or election official

• 60 voted in an incorrect precinct either due to time constraints or board worker error

• 28 voter not on registration books; claimed to have registered at the Driver’s License Office; claim substantiated by DMV

• 1 voter issued federal service ballot by mail, not received. Voted at polls

• 2 board worker error: failed to have registered voter complete a new registration form

• 2 incomplete registration forum could not be completed timely and therefore not on registration book

• 2 new registrant lacked ID when voting. Provided to board later that same day

• 1 election officer error: registered voter incorrectly identified on the registration list as having received an advance ballot

• 8 failed to provide sufficient identification document either when voting or afterwards within the time allowed by law

• 1 failed (refused) to complete a registration application card as required to vote a provisional ballot

• 29 not already registered anywhere in the county; not eligible to vote a provisional ballot under Kansas law

• 50 not already registered anywhere in Kansas; not eligible to vote a provisional ballot under Kansas law

• 3 voter registered in another county in Kansas voted in Lyon County instead of home country

• 15 claim of registration of DMV office could not be substantiated

• 1 voter decided not to vote after being issued a provisional ballot

• 1 voter error on touch screen; voter insisted on being issued another ballot

• 1 registered form received after the Oct. 20, 2008, deadline. voter previously registered in another county in Kansas.

Entering a new chapter…

Yesterday we witnissed history. The United State’s first African American president was elected by an overwhelming majority. Last night’s vote sent a very clear and pointed message — the United States is ready for change.

I had the honor yesterday to experience history first hand as a reporter at the Lyon County Courthouse. I uploaded returns live as they happened, giving the readers an inside look at local races. Meanwhile, my editor was at the paper on the back end on messenger and we chatted throughout the night and she updated the blog we had going. Two other of our reporters were at both major party headquarters.

Very quickly last night politicians, candidates and citizens realized I had a direct link to the national elections on and they began to migrate at my computer off and on throughout the night. It was an amazing feeling and the air had a constant charge in it. My favorite assignment is covering elections — it’s what I think many of us as reporters live for.

The election returns came through very quickly and by 9:30 p.m. I found myself back at the newspaper finishing up my stories and waiting for the presidential election to be called. I didn’t have to wait long and I wasn’t dissapointed witht the results.

President Obama will bring much-needed change to the country and move us in a positive direction.

Whether you voted for Obama or not, it’s time to unify this country. It’s time to support our leader and support the changes that are on our horizon. It’s time for America to join together and move forward for positive change.

Peace out my friends!