By a sliver, with nearly all the votes counted, Michele Landquist looked to have secured the Democratic nomination in the primary race for Missoula County commissioner, according to unofficial election results released late Tuesday.
However, as of press time, it looked as though a recount was inevitable.
With at least 95 percent of the votes counted, Landquist was ahead of Dennis Daneke by 10 votes. Landquist led with 6,670 votes, Daneke had 6,660 votes, while Jeff Patterson trailed with 4,118 votes.
The defeated candidates must request a recount within five days after the canvass, which is scheduled for next Tuesday, said Deputy Elections Administrator Debbe Merseal.
"It's not over till it's over," Landquist said. "If not all the votes are in and it's been a tight race, it's too soon to celebrate."
Landquist, who was at her home in Lolo watching returns on TV, said she was happy that voters gave careful consideration when casting their ballots.
Daneke, who was watching returns from the downtown Missoula Club, thanked all of his supporters, contributors and friends for their efforts up to this point.
"Who would have guessed?" Daneke said of the outcome. "We'll see how it works out."
The winner of the race will face off against Republican incumbent Commissioner Larry Anderson in November's general election. Anderson ran unopposed in the primary. He is a former field representative for former Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Missoula County voters also approved a request to levy two mills for substance abuse and prevention during Tuesday's primary.
According to unofficial results, 53 percent, or 13,704 voters, approved the mill levy and 47 percent, or 12,270, voted against it.
It was a mostly civilized race between the three Democratic candidates trying to secure the spot left open by longtime Republican Commissioner Barbara Evans less than a year ago when she resigned her post prior to the end of her term. Evans' move allowed for a hand-picked Republican to gain experience on the job before having to face electors.
As the results rolled out Tuesday evening, Patterson was relaxing at his home in Turah, riding and training his horses.
Patterson called it a rewarding experience and was humbled by the support of friends.
"I found out I have a lot of people who support me and that's nice to know," he said.
The Missoula Board of County Commissioners is made up of three elected officials who serve staggered six-year terms.
Voter approval of the request to levy two mills, or about $385,000 annually, for substance abuse and prevention in Missoula County came as a surprise to Mary-Glynn Cromwell, a member of the KIDS committee, a group that advocated on behalf of the tax increase.
"I'm shocked because levies haven't been passing countywide," she said. "This is a huge victory for children in Missoula County."
Cromwell attributes its passage to the higher-than-normal voter turnout. The KIDS committee discussed placing the levy on the May school election ballot, but thought better of it.
"The people who are voting in the primary right now are passionate about the economy and about families," she said. "We guessed there'd be a lot of people voting for the future of our country and our community."
The increase will raise property taxes on a $200,000 home by $12 annually. The levy was supported primarily by a core group of longtime teen-advocate organizations that are running short on federal grant money and depended on this levy to continue their work.
According to Peg Shea, president of KIDS committee, this is possibly the first time in Montana that county taxpayers have agreed to levy mills for substance abuse and prevention. The state Legislature first made it possible in 2005 for county governments to put such request to the voters.
Organizations that work on prevention issues or to combat substance abuse can now apply to Missoula County for a chunk of that change. The money is not committed to a certain organization. It's up to the county commissioners to divvy up the pot.
Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.