Pittsburg Even when stepping down from politics, state Sen. Jim Barone can't avoid controversy.
Members of the Crawford County Democratic Party said they had to scramble for a replacement for Barone's post when he announced he would not run for re-election only days before the June 10 filing deadline for candidates.
Considering the many clashes Barone had with members of his own party in the Legislature, which culminated in his removal from the influential Ways and Means Committee before this year's session, some don't see his timing as a coincidence.
"I think he did have an ax to grind, and we all should have an ax to grind," Steve Langerot, president of local political group D Wild Ones and a Barone supporter. "When they took away his (committee) seats, they weren't punishing him as much as they were the 13th District."
Barone had said often that he would wait until the end of this year's legislative session to decide whether to extend his 12-year legislative tenure. But Beth Bradrick, chairwoman of the Crawford County Democratic Party, said Barone didn't call her with his decision until the afternoon of June 7, several days after the session ended and three days before the filing deadline.
"I think people interested in running were waiting for his decision," she said. "Nobody wanted to face him in a primary situation. He's formidable."
Barone denied that his decision put his party at a disadvantage to retain his seat in an already Republican-dominated legislature. He said he spoke regularly with party officials and encouraged potential candidates to go ahead and file.
He said he was "significantly troubled" that the party may have discouraged potential candidates from running against him.
"We've always had a big tent, and we always would encourage anybody and everybody who wanted to seek public office to do so and let the voters decide," he told The Joplin Globe newspaper for a story in Sunday's edition.
Barone said he struggled with the decision not to run again as senator for the district including Crawford, Bourbon and part of Cherokee counties. He said that any difficulty his timing created for his party "wasn't my intention."
"If I wanted to make it difficult for the party, I just wouldn't have filed, and then not told anybody," he said. "I previously told (Bradrick) that if they had someone that wanted to run, have them file, have them talk with me. Only one person did, and it's not the candidate they're running."
State Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee, agreed that the timing of Barone's decision could have been better.
"It kind of put us in a bind," Grant said. "I'm sure it was a tough decision for Jim. I wish he would have done it a little earlier, but maybe we've saved having a primary."
Democratic leaders are throwing their support behind Barone's potential successor, Pittsburg resident and retired Regis Salons executive Patty Horgan, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
"It is a little scary. It's also very exciting," said Horgan, who has never run for office.
She'll face the winner of the Republican primary between Bob Marshall of Fort Scott and Jacob LaTurner of Pittsburg. While they've been campaigning for some time, Horgan said she doesn't believe she's at a disadvantage.
"If there were more time, they may have found a politician to run," she said. "And I am not a politician. So I do see that as a strength."