There won’t be many contested countywide races in western Montana come November. Tuesday’s primary elections decided most of them months before the general election.
Only Republicans ran for sheriff posts in Flathead, Lake and Lincoln counties, for an open county commission seat in Lincoln County, and for the vacant clerk and recorder’s post in Mineral County. Barring successful write-in campaigns before then, Tuesday’s winners will take oaths of office next January.
That means Brian Heino will be the man who succeeds the outgoing Chuck Curry as sheriff of Flathead County. Heino’s 8,888 votes nearly doubled those of his closest of three competitors, Jordan White. Keith Stahlberg and Calvin Beringer were farther back.
Don Bell retained the sheriff’s job in Lake County for a second four-year term. He turned away challenger David Coffman to clinch the nomination with 59 percent of the votes. Bell received 2,854 votes to 1,981 for Coffman.
Incumbent Tom Rummel came out on top of a three-person race for Sanders County sheriff, but he’ll face another challenge in November from Darlene Lee. Rummel was victorious in his first run for sheriff in 2010 as a Republican, but Sanders County has since gone nonpartisan for county offices.
Rummel’s vote total of 2,549 was more than three times that of Lee’s 800, but Lee, a former Montana Highway Patrol trooper, will advance to the November ballot. Justin Ryan won’t. He finished third with 306 votes.
Lincoln County’s Roby Bowe was the only sitting sheriff in western Montana to get the boot. Bowe fell hard to challenger Darren Short, a Libby police officer, by a margin of 70 percent to 30 percent. Bowe was trying for his third term. He defeated Short for the second one in 2014.
Lincoln County will also see a change to its county commission board after incumbent Mike Cole lost to Darren Short, 2,479-2,244, in the District 3 Republican primary. Missoula and Flathead counties face similar lame-duck situations on their boards of commissioners. In Missoula, Jean Curtiss was defeated in the Democratic primary by newcomer Josh Slotnick.
Commissioner Gary Krueger finished just third in the Flathead County Republican primary. Randy Brodehl edged Jay Scott 5,471-5,310 for the top spot. Krueger, who was vying for his second six-year term, had 3,543. Brodehl will face Tom Clark, the lone Democrat to file, in November.
In an election morning post on his campaign Facebook site, Clark admitted he’ll be the underdog. He addressed the question of which of the four Republican candidates he’d prefer to face. He picked Krueger, followed by Brodehl, who he said “is so far to the right politically that he would scare off both independents and middle of the road Republicans.”
“No matter who wins I will still have an uphill fight,” Clark added. “Without proper funding it won’t even be a skirmish. So far the four Republicans have raised and spent over $80,000 in the primary between them. Whoever gets the nomination will spend at least $50,000 maybe more to win in November.”
There’ll also be a contest in November for District Court judge in Lake County, even though incumbent Deborah “Kim” Christopher was a runaway winner Tuesday over Ashley Morigeau and Ben Anciaux. In nonpartisan primary races that involve three or more candidates, the top two vote-getters move on. Christopher garnered 4,849 votes. Morigeau outpolled Anciaux 1,579 to 946 to earn the second spot in the general election.
In Granite County, Republican Charles Hinkle is headed to the November election to take on current county commissioner Bart Bonney. Bonney was elected as an independent and wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday. Hinkle outpolled John Barbara 373-274 (57 percent to 43) in the primary. No Democrats filed for the office.
Kelann McLees, district school clerk at Superior, will be the Mineral County clerk and recorder come January. She triumphed over three other Republican candidates for the position currently held by outgoing Staci McGrew. McLees garnered 303 votes to the 266 for deputy clerk and recorder Merry Mueller. Joan Carroll and Kristin Parrish polled 172 and 85 votes, respectively.
Voters in Flathead County roundly supported expansion of the Egan Slough Zoning District near Creston (see accompanying story), and 68 percent of Lake County voters Tuesday said yes to the Rural County Rehabilitation levy to purchase road oil in order to rehab chip-sealed road. That count was 3,518 to 1,678.
A levy to sustain funding levels at the Granite County Hospital District fell by 20 votes, 528-508.