Friday, November 7, 2008
It’s been three days since the historic election, and Missoula County is still counting ballots.
Vickie Zeier, head of the county’s Office of Elections, and her staff worked for more than 24 hours straight Tuesday before calling it quits at 5 a.m. Wednesday. By that point, 99 of 101 precincts had been counted and Zeier was starting to see some mistakes in her staff’s work.
Despite the hectic schedule, Zeier said, the elections were “pretty successful” despite 85 percent of active registered voters casting ballots.
She credits her staff, including 550 polling judges, for making sure that every one of the nearly 60,000 voters was able to vote in a timely manner, avoiding the long lines seen elsewhere in the country.
The two uncounted precincts were both in Alberton and had errors with the card-reading machine. The ballots from those precincts will be hand-counted on Monday.
Zeier needs to finish counting those precincts, clear 868 provisional ballots and tabulate military ballots before Monday at 3 p.m., when an elections counting board will go over her final numbers.
The board will look at the number of votes cast and compare it to the final tallies of ballots counted. The two numbers are supposed to match, said Zeier. If they don’t, the board will need to resolve the discrepancy.
By Wednesday, official results from the county election must be at the Secretary of State’s office in Helena.
As for Zeier, once the ballots are all finalized and the election season is officially over, she’s going on a two-week vacation.
“I deserve it,” she said.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Look out Missoula County, there’s a new gang in town.
Residents in four communities in Western Missoula County voted overwhelmingly to band together to create the West Valley Community Council Tuesday night.
That means Frenchtown, Huson, the Six Mile, and the Nine Mile areas will have a local center for public input and discourse and speak with a single voice on issues before the county commissioners.
With all five precincts reporting Tuesday night, the West Valley Community Council passed by a margin of 70 percent, 1,357 for and 587 against.
“I’m really pleased that the voters in the outlying areas of the county decided to let their voices be heard,” said Frenchtown resident Ray Winn. “The urban areas of Missoula have had too much influence on the rural people.”
The new council will have five members, one from each precinct on the new council. Interested individuals need to sign up at the courthouse. The county commissioners will choose the first council from the pool of applicants. This temporary council will serve until a permanent council is elected in the May school board election.
Winn said there wasn’t a great deal of campaigning for the initiative because he saw it as a “Can’t lose” proposition because it didn’t tax people or change a law. He suspects that the people who voted “No” were tired of big government and regulation and didn’t even read the ballot.
Stan Lucier, also a Frenchtown resident, suspects that opponents live in the hills of the upper Nine Mile.
“My wife calls ‘em Montuckiens,” Lucier said. “They don’t want to be messed with or bothered and they vote ‘No’ on everything.”
Whatever the case, supporters of the measure will be looking to voice their concerns on issues like road conditions. Lucier feels that it’s important to start by establishing Frenchtown as a city. Reviewing the sewer and water planning for the area and zoning in general will determine the valley’s appearance years from now. Another concern is the expensive requirements being imposed on people who build houses in the area.
“The first year is going be about communicating what they’re (the council) there for and how they can help,” Lucier said.
Republican Ray Hawk soared high Tuesday night as Ravalli County voters re-elected him to House District 90.
Three terms of experience and a platform of reducing taxes and supporting small businesses paid off as Hawk won 60 percent of the votes to Gritzner’s 40 percent, 3,116 to 2,120 votes.
“I had no idea it was going to be this close,” Hawk said, after hearing the results for absentee ballots before turning in for the night. He was unavailable for a comment on his victory.
Hawk, 67, entered politics after a career in banking. He ran on a platform of conservative policies. His primary goals, he said, will be to eliminate the state’s business equipment tax and reduce property taxes.
Hawk’s opponent, Yvonne Gritzner, a volunteer with Montana Public Broadcasting and former program director for Montana Committee for the Humanities, said that defeating an incumbent is always hard. Ravalli County, especially, is a “Republican stronghold,” she said.
“I think that people do feel it is time for a change,” she said. “I think that my views on healthcare and education rang true.”
The two candidates were divided over issues such as further funding for public education, alternative energy and taxation.
While Gritzner thought that public education in Montana is extremely under funded, Hawk disagreed, saying during the campaign that current school funding is adequate.
Hawk also disagreed with Gritzner on the immediacy of alternative energy
“Right now we have to pursue coal and natural gas, we can’t pursue enough alternative energy to meet the needs of the population,” Hawk said earlier.
Though Gritzner was disappointed with the results, she believes there are Ravalli County residents who are ready for a change.
“You always feel like you could have done more,” she said.
Luckily for Betsy Hands’s challenger, she will have to call long distance to rub it in.
Democrat Hands, 38, beat Republican opponent Jedediah Cox, 24, who’s currently in South Korea, with a strong majority for House District 99.
“I won because I am known in Missoula, represent Missoula's highest priorities, and I run an open campaign making an effort to listen to everyone,” Hands said.
Hands took 72 percent of the vote, with 3,514 votes to Cox’s 1,391.
Cox ended his campaign last month after accepting a job teaching English in South Korea, although he could not formally drop out of the race because the ballots had already been printed. Thousands of absentee ballots had already been turned in by the time he left the country.
Cox said he would return to Montana if he won the election, but District 99 is considered a stronghold for Democrats. In 2006, Hands won the district with 70 percent of the vote.
Last month, Hands left her position as executive director of homeWORD, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide affordable and environmentally sound housing, to focus on her campaign. She said she plans to spend the months leading up to the 2009 Legislative session working on bills she wants to sponsor, attending Legislative meetings and presenting at a sustainability conference in Boston.
“I am also going to enjoy spending the holidays with family and friends before heading to Helena and being fully focused on the legislative session,” she said.
Cox could not be reached in South Korea for comment.
Republican Bob Lake kept his head above water Tuesday night and won a close race for House District 88.
With 99 percent of the votes counted, Lake defeated opponent Patrick Boylan, a Democrat, 2,453 to 2,326, securing him a fourth term in the Montana Legislature.
Both candidates speculated that the Obama campaign Get Out the Vote lifted Boylan by sending more Democrats than usual to the polls.
Lake, 70, a retired businessman with two granddaughters in high school, supports lowering business taxes and increasing technology in rural Montana schools.
Boylan, 31, campaigned for a diversified, a green economy and improved access to health care.
But residents from the Woodside Cutoff to Sleeping Child Lake supported Lake and his pro-business, pro-education platform once again.
In office, Lake said he would like to be reappointed chairman of the taxation committee, where one of his main goals would be to reduce or eliminate business taxes.
He also said that he will try to make higher education more affordable, and prepare more of Montana’s youth for universities.
“I want to see children get through one level (of education) and be ready for the next,” Lake said. “My biggest efforts will go into that.”
Lake, who owned Lake Milling, Inc./Lakeland Feeds for 22 years, credits his victory in part to name recognition.
“The bottom line is that any of these races are run more like a popularity contest than an issue contest,” he said.
Boylan worried that issues he supported will be ignored under Lake’s representation.
“It’s unfortunate,” Boylan said, regarding his loss. “I think it’s bad for Ravalli County.”
Lake said that he plans to run for the state senate after he serves his final term in H.D. 88.
Conservative values trumped the Hollywood hopeful Tuesday in House District 87 race as incumbent Republican Ron Stoker defeated challenger Democrat Peter Rosten by a wide margin.
Stoker said his three terms in office and the strong conservative nature of his constituents held off the Democratic tide that swept through much of the nation.
“I come from a very conservative area of the county,” said Stoker, who claimed victory with 66 percent of the vote. With all precincts counted, Stoker received 3,523 votes to Rosten’s 1,850.
Rosten, a Hollywood movie producer who brought media art program to public schools in the Bitterroot, touted fresh ideas and his ability to get things done.
He was philosophical about defeat.
“Although there’s a more articulate way of putting this, (stuff) happens,” Rosten said. “It wasn’t meant to be.”
Stoker campaigned on the strength of his legislative experience. He said he will continue his work with the Human Services, Ethics and Judiciary committees. His work with the Judiciary Committee sent a large amount of bills to the house last term, he said.
In the new term, Stoker plans to continue a bill draft dealing with judge’s placement of convicted criminals. He was handpicked by Sen. Daniel McGee of Laurel to carry the bill because of his knowledge and experience with its background.
Although he lost, Rosten said he enjoyed the experience of the campaign, and his defeat was tempered by the results of the elections nationwide.
“If nothing else, I’m a better man and a better citizen,” Rosten said. “The real story tonight is Barack Obama. I could have changed Montana, but Obama can change the world.”
County beat city Tuesday night as Democrat Michele Landquist defeated incumbent Larry Anderson in the race for Missoula County Board of Commissioners.
With only absentee ballots left to count, Anderson conceded defeat.
“It looks like I’m a victim of the Obama tsunami that’s coming through,” he said.
A nervous and largely disappointed Republican group at the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Missoula said it looked like Obama voters had marked Democrat straight down the ballots.
In the county race, the tally was Landquist’s 55 percent to Anderson’s 45 percent – her 22,827 votes to his 18,565. She will be the sole Missoula County resident serving on the three-member panel that makes decisions about county policy. The other two commissioners reside in the city.
Lanquist ran on the promise that she would be a voice for county residents living outside of Missoula. Anderson lives in the city limits, and campaigned as a fiscally conservative Republican serving on a majority Democratic panel.
Landquist said was stunned by her victory.
“Until they make an official announcement, it won’t sink in,” she said.
She declined to speculate on what her victory means, adding that it would be an insult to her voters for her to speculate on why she won. The voters are smart enough to elect the best candidate for the job, she said.
Landquist also said that she hopes to see the benefits that Missoula enjoys, such as recycling and preschools, extended to the rest of the county. In addition, she plans to carefully manage urban expansion and emphasize environmental friendliness.
But things move so fast in the commission that it’s difficult to determine what she will need to do first, Landquist said.
“I’ve got my list of things from talking to people but we’ll just have to see,” she said.
RACE AGAINST FREY ‘CLOSER THAN EXPECTED’
By BECKY MALEWITZ and MIKE WEBSTER
A tight race in House District 94 ended Tuesday night with Democratic Rep. Dave McAlpin winning a third term by edging out Republican opponent Linda Frey.
With 99 of 101 precincts reporting, McAlpin is the apparent winner with 54 percent of the vote compared with Frey’s 46 percent, a 363 vote difference. McAlpin had 2,395 votes,and Frey had 2,032.
“It’s a closer race than I expected,” McAlpin said.
The Democrat said he was excited to continue representing House District 94.
“It’s a great district. It’s a working families’ district, and they’ve always been very supportive and I’m glad that they were supportive again this time around.”
The race saw the candidates running on separate platforms with little overlap.
Health care has been McAlpin’s top priority throughout his time in the House, an interest he says stems from his background in tobacco prevention work. What started as a fairly narrow focus during his freshman term – four of the 10 bills McAlpin sponsored then were anti-tobacco – has widened over his two terms to include general health care.
For his third term, McAlpin’s said his top priority will be to “continue to try and improve health care and access to affordable health care.”
McAlpin also said he’ll focus on education and employment.
“We need to continue to make sure that our education in our public schools is well funded, so that our kids are competitive in a world market, and then always the economic drumbeat of trying to create good paying jobs with benefits in Missoula.”
Frey, on the other hand, is a staunch opponent of property taxes and entered the race after her fight against the Hillview Special Improvement District, which would have raised taxes in the neighborhood to widen the road.
Frey, 61, has been a history professor at the University of Montana since 1991 and had no political experience before the election.
Despite running a close race, Frey has no future political plans.
“I’m anxious to get back to my books,” said Frey. “I don’t regret running. I had a fantastic time.”
Away from the legislature, McAlpin, 43, is the executive director of Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Missoula, a program that pairs community volunteers with child victims of abuse and neglect.
McAplin commended Frey on the close race, saying, “I will be happy to give my opponent, Professor Frey, credit for hard work. But I think that the issues prevailed in this election.”
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
A Seeley Lake voter prepares to cast her ballot on a proposal to establish a resort tax to improve the local water system. The measure failed. Photo by CHARLES PULLIAM.
By CHARLES PULLIAM
SEELEY LAKE – A proposed resort tax in Seeley Lake was failing to clear its final hurdle early Wednesday.
Although some absentee ballot had yet to be counted, roughly 56 percent of voters had opposed the creation of a resort tax district, which would have established a designated area affected by the resort tax.
The actual tax, which would have tacked on an additional 3 percent tax on items such as alcohol, tobacco and restaurant food, was failing by a vote of 220-to-156 as of 1 a.m.
An official total wasn’t available as absentee ballots are still being counted, but the number isn’t expected to affect the final result.
“It was shot down,” said provisional judge Chris Jewett, who headed the polling operation at Seeley Lake Elementary School Tuesday.
About 600 people were eligible to vote on the issue, according to a July district voter report that counted the number of qualified residents within the area.
Becky Kyle, who resides within the district directly affected, said she voted for the tax because it would have helped boost the community as a whole.
“Seeley Lake is lacking infrastructure,” Kyle said. “This is basically a retirement community and for us to grow into something different than that, the resort tax was the answer. It was a great way to start gathering the funds necessary to change."
Kyle, 28, who is employed by Farmers Insurance, owns one of the roughly 540 homes within the water district. The district was a big reason the resort tax was even brought up after voters narrowly approved a 30-year general obligation bond last November to pay $4 million in upgrades to the town’s haphazard water system.
“I thought they might as well take advantage of the people who come here and the people that put their boats in the water and stay at our hotels,” she said. “We might as well have used that to our advantage to create revenue.”
Seeley Lake, which is home to about 1,600 residents, is expected to double within the next 20 years, but the key variables for further growth are how upgrades to the water and sewer systems are approached.
Most residents are currently using septic tanks, which are beginning to threaten the town’s cherished lake.
Addrien Marx, secretary of the town’s community council, said residents will be seeing water bills increase by $35 to $60 per month without the resort tax.
“I think most people see the word ‘tax’ and are turned away from the issue,” she said.
Marx, who owns Rovero’s, a small store and gas station in Seeley Lake, said her business, like others, will see increases of several hundred dollars per month. She said plenty of residents might not be able to meet the necessary jump in costs now.
“I know some old-timers around here who won’t be able to pay, say an extra $40 per month,” she said. “We lose those people, we lose the personality of the town. One of the solutions was the resort tax.”
Marx said she was frustrated in the outcome, but feels the possibility of a resort tax in Seeley Lake resurfacing isn’t too far away.
“I’m very disappointed because I thought it could help residents,” she said. “By next year they will realize they missed the opportunity after facing higher bills without the assistance from the people who pass through our valley.”
Experience trumped youth Tuesday night as retired high school teacher Robin Hamilton beat his 21-year-old GOP challenger in a landslide.
Republican candidate Dan Stusek chalked his loss up to timing, but vowed he would someday return to the ring.
“It’s a Democratic year,” said Stusek, A University of Montana senior. “He’s also an incumbent and he’s a lot more well known than I am.”
With all the precincts and some absentee ballots counted, Hamilton claimed 66 percent of the vote, out polling Stusek 3,035 to 1,567. The district covers 771 square miles centered on the Rattlesnake.
Hamilton couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.
The fourth-generation Rattlesnake resident is well known in the district he has represented since 2005. He taught at Hellgate High School for 24 years and campaigned on a platform supporting a government-backed educational system in Missoula, as well as the implementation of eco-friendly ideas into the school system.
Stusek advocated for increased domestic oil, gas and coal extraction and increased power for the legislature.
Stusek said he didn’t know what office he would seek next, but that he would be in the running again soon.
“I’ll definitely still be around,” Stusek said. “And I’ll have better results for next time for sure.”
Rancher Cliff Larsen roped in a victory over small-business owner Kandi Matthew-Jenkins to be the next state senator for District 50.
Democratic Larsen, 65, defeated Constitution Party candidate Matthew-Jenkins, 58, by about 3,000 votes, though a few absentee ballots have yet to be to be counted. Larsen led Matthew-Jenkins, 5,224 votes to 2,217 at 12:30 a.m.
Larsen said he was not surprised by his substantial lead in the votes, declaring Matthew-Jenkins to be “a very unusual person running on a ticket that’s kind of extreme.”
“I think I represent the mainstream of Montana voters and people in my district,” said Larsen. “I think they want me to represent them in general for the positions that I take and that I hold.”
Matthew-Jenkins said she wasn’t surprised by her loss and attributed it to the “heavily progressive liberal district” in which she ran.
Larsen said that as a senator he will focus on health care, veterans’ benefits and senior citizens’ privileges. He said his “big issue” will be to get a portion of Montana tobacco tax revenues designated to Insure Montana, a program that helps small businesses offer employees health insurance. If it works out, Larsen said, the number of people the program covers could potentially double.
While Matthew-Jenkins does not know if she will run for office again, she said she didn't plan to stop working for political reform.
Larsen, who said he was tired from knocking on thousands of doors, plans to take it easy for a while.
“I feel like I really talked to the voters and I feel good about it," he said. "Now I’ll take a couple days off and just relax.”
TOUGH DISTRICT FOR A REPUBLICAN, SAYS DOGIAKOS
By ADRIENNE BARNETT and KIP SIKORA
The Garden City voted green by electing conservation-minded Democrat Dick Barrett for the District 93 seat in the state House of Representatives.
With 98 of the 101 precincts reporting, Barrett led with 65 percent of the votes. He had 2,584 votes (64.6 percent) to Republican Steve Dogiakos’ 1,404 (35.1 percent).
“I am gratified by my victory, but not terribly surprised,” said Barrett, “I had a number of advantages, including being a Democrat in the district as well as my name recognition.”
Barrett, who retired as a University of Montana professor of economics after 25 years, focused on land stewardship and support for aggressive, state-sponsored land-use management.
His proposals included instituting development setbacks and expanding the ability of the state to place its own land under conservation easement.
Dogiakos spoke about balancing the changing environment and society’s needs for transportation and consumption. But Missoulians voted for Barrett’s specific solutions.
Barrett, 66, and Dogiakos, 23, agreed on many issues in their campaign, but age, experience and political-party affiliation stood out as the main differences.
“It is a great learning experience,” said Dogiakos, who might run again. “I know what it takes to win next time. I know what needs to happen next time.
“It is a tough district to run in. By putting an R (Republican) after your name, you are automatically down by 20 points.”
Once an appointed fill-in for his lawmaker son, Democratic incumbent Tim Furey proved his ability to serve in his own right Tuesday and secured his second term as House District 91 representative.
Running in his first election, Furey defeated Republican challenger Walt Hill 62 to 38 percent. With all precincts reporting, Furey received 2,356 votes compared to Hill’s 1,465.
Furey, 54, said his victory is a testament to the vision his son Kevin had for the sprawling district. Kevin Furey left his House District seat in order to report for duty with the Army Reserves. He is serving in northern Iraq.
“It’s quite an honor to be able to carry on your son’s legacy,” Tim Furey said.
That legacy includes Furey’s support for state-provided energy assistance for low-income individuals and funding first-class facilities for the University of Montana.
Hill, Furey’s opponent, is a 71-year-old retired University of Montana professor who lives in Seeley Lake. He said the combination of challenging a Democratic incumbent in a Democratic stronghold was too much.
“I guess I should have campaigned harder,” Hill said.
Hill said this will be his last campaign because there are younger, more vibrant candidates available.
Furey said he knocked on more than 3,000 doors between May and November and attributed his victory to being involved with the community as much as possible.
“The main thing is visiting with people, knocking on doors and talking to people,” Furey said.
Currently, Furey is director of development at Opportunity Resources in Missoula.
The major issues in the House District 91 race surrounded Montana’s economy, energy costs, and university funding.
INCUMBENT QUICK TO MAKE PLANS FOR HELENA
BY LAURA L. LUNDQUIST and ANDREW VETERE
Democrat Michele Reinhart won a second term as state representative Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger Carol Minjares in House District 97.
Reinhart had the lead after the first absentee votes were counted and was still ahead by 1,569 votes with 98 percent of the precincts reported. Reinhart had 2,967 votes (67.82 percent) to Minjares’ 1,398 (31.95 percent).
Reinhart, 28, stopped into the Missoula County Courthouse Tuesday evening just as the second round of votes were released. When she saw the percentages for the House District 97 race, her first response was, “Oh, poor Carol.”
But her sympathy was short-lived as the congratulatory phone calls started coming in.
Reinhart rattled off her priorities as she dashed down the courthouse stairs. Emphasize energy efficiency in institutions, businesses and homes. Develop zero and low interest loans for sustainable businesses.
“But the big picture is working on green jobs creation, the economy, and education,” she said. “We need to connect the dots between all of those and find the funding. I want everyone to contact me with ideas and priorities.”
Throughout her campaign, Reinhart was approachable and in the public eye. In the two weeks before the election, Reinhart participated in six public panels and talked to thousands of constituents door-to-door.
Minjares, 59, made few public appearances, including one where she stayed only long enough to make her statement. She appeared to focus her campaign efforts on the Internet, posting to VoteSmart.org and regularly updating her own blog, Missoulapolis.
Although she works one-on-one with local and state governments as a proposal writer and attorney, her interaction with constituents was limited and she was unavailable for comment on election night.
Reinhart has specific suggestions for state budget management. She would eliminate tax loopholes so state income increases without raising taxes. She also favors maintaining a “rainy day” fund so the current surplus can postpone future deficit.
Reinhart said she would put her job as a Missoula city planner on hold when she gets to Helena in January.
“It’s time to keep kickin’ butt and workin’ hard for the people of Missoula and Montana.”
Republican incumbent Bill Nooney eeked out a win for the House District 100 seat Tuesday night, narrowly defeating his opponent Willis Curdy. The race stayed close until the end, with Nooney leading 1,727 votes over Curdy’s 1,503 as of midnight.
“This district is an anomaly in Missoula,” Democratic candidate Curdy said. “It’s a swing district, and it tends to lean Republican.”
Nooney, a small business owner, has served one term in the Montana Legislature. Curdy, who has limited political experience, has worked with the U.S. Forest Service as a smokejumper and taught history at Hellgate High School for 30 years.
One of the key issues during the race was a change in tax structure. During the campaign, Nooney said he would propose an “across–the-board” decrease in property taxes, while Curdy maintained that tax cuts would only exacerbate existing problems.
Energy costs were another point of contention. Nooney said Montanans should take advantage of coal reserves in the state and that drilling for oil is the most viable option for energy resources right now. Curdy championed the potential of geothermal and solar power as an alternative to traditional natural resources.
Curdy, 59, said although it may be too early to tell, he probably won’t run for office again.
“I’ve had to work hard,” Curdy said. “I’ve had a lot of help from folks. People have stepped up and said, ‘Yeah, I want to help,’ and that’s really paid off, regardless of whether we win or lose.”
Nooney could not be reached for comment.
BY WILL MELTON
Missoula County residents narrowly defeated a bond measure on Tuesday that would have built a new sheriff’s office and 911 emergency call center.
The bond issue was losing by 1,300 votes with 99 of 101 precincts reporting. There were 22,247 (51.5 percent) against the measure to 20,950 (48.5 percent) in favor.
The measure would have raised $16 million dollars over the next 20 years by taxing property owners $13.91 on every $100,000 of taxable value per year.
The estimated cost of the new center is around $23.5 million. The rest of the money would have come from the county’s reserves and annual budgeting.
Sheriff Mike McMeekin took the news in stride but said he worried that rising construction costs would cost the county and taxpayers significantly as a result of the defeat.
There was no organized opposition to the bond, and most of its opponents agreed with the need for a new center but felt that it was the wrong time to be asking voters to pay higher taxes.
Even one of the most public opponent of the bond, Democratic county commissioner-elect Michele Landquist, said she worried about openly opposing the bond measure, as she didn’t want be blamed for the bond’s defeat.
Supporters of the bond pointed to overcrowding in the Missoula county courthouse and outdated infrastructure as the reason that the new center was so crucial for the county. They say that as calls to 911 increase and county sheriff’s deputies continue to play a crucial role in county law enforcement, the current location, in the county courthouse annex building, will become increasingly insufficient.
In the end, McMeekin said that the bond’s defeat was “understandable given that the economic situation is the way it is.” He stressed that because the county needs the center, it will find a way to get the money.
Reporter Melissa Jensen provided some of the information for this article.
REPUBLICAN OPPONENT STAYED OUT OF SIGHT
By MELISSA JENSEN and CATE OLIVER
The outcome of the race for House District 95 was not the surprise of the day for winning Democrat Diane Sands.
Up against a nearly invisible opponent, there was little question in Sands’ mind that she would win re-election.
“I am honored to again represent the people of House District 95,” said Sands.
Republican Kevin Blackler said during the campaign that he preferred to stay out of the public eye and not be involved in the political process.
So for Sands, the surprising moments of the day were spread across the hours she spent as an election judge at Hellgate Elementary.
There she saw four young men celebrate their 18th birthdays by registering to vote and casting their ballots.
And she watched as tears rolled down the face of a woman in a wheelchair who was able to cast her own ballot at an AutoMARK machine for the disabled.
Those moments, she said, summed up why she’s involved in politics.
“I could care less about who they vote for, just that they do it,” Sands said before the election.
Now that she’s been re-elected to a second term, Sands’ attention turns to the upcoming legislative session. She’ll now get the chance to continue working on several bills she began in the last meeting of the state legislature.
One bill deals with general revisions to election law. It would review the state’s election laws and how they work together and possibly get rid of any out-dated material.
Another bill deals with voting by mail. If passed, it would set up a pilot project in several counties to look at the effectiveness of strictly mail-in ballot elections.
Efforts to get reaction to the race’s outcome from Kevin Blackler went unanswered Tuesday night.
"There's been no problems," Merseal said. "It's just been very busy."
The office recieved around 28,000 absentee ballots, which they began counting this morning.
"That's higher than normal," Merseal said. "Two years ago we issued 12,000."
They had to wait until the polls had closed to begin issuing any results.
"If there are people still waiting in that line downstairs, we cannot release any results," Merseal said. "We've got to wait until we get the door closed behind everybody."
Around 9:20 p.m., they released preliminary results based on the absentee ballots.
The county set up its late-voter registration center a floor below in the courthouse's Motor Vehicle and Treasury department. The county decided to use the office to handle the expected crowed, taking advantage of the DMV's set up and take-a-number system. The office also served as a polling place. Last-minute registrees had to fill out a registration card and show an ID, then brave the wait for a chance to vote.
Residents packed the lobby throughout the day. Most stuck it out, though a few decided not to after learning they'd be sitting for upwards of two hours.
John Melendez of Boulder, Colo., forgot to file his absentee ballot in the mail and came to re-register. He filled out a card around 5:15 p.m. and waited for 20 minutes but decided to scrap the attempt when he realized the two-hour delay was no exaggeration.
"What I really wanted was one of those (I Voted) stickers," Melendez said with a laugh. "I think I'm going to just grab one anyway and call it good."
Volunteer Kim Seeberger said the center was overflowing since 8 a.m., with at least an hour wait for most of the day.
"Before the doors opened this morning, the room was packed," Seeberger said. "Then we had a lull but around the lunch hour it hit and it never stopped."
As the polls closed at 8 p.m., dozens of people still milled around the halls, waiting to vote. At 8:45, registration worker Josie Van Deventer filed the last ballot.
BY WILL GRANT and KELLY ROTHLISBERGER
Experience and her drive for better health care is what Teresa Henry said won her a third term in the state House of Representatives.
In House District 96, Henry, a Democrat, won with 57 percent, 2,042 votes, in Tuesday’s election. Her opponent, Steve Eschenbacher, received 42 percent, 1,507 votes.
“I am the best candidate to represent House District 96,” said Henry. “I was so supported by my friends. I had support that I didn’t even know about.”
She said her knowledge as the incumbent won the race for her.
Henry plans to reintroduce and sponsor the Creative Responsible Sexual Health bill. It would create a sexual-education program to teach the health benefits of contraception, encourage family communication, teach skills for making responsible sexual decisions and promote healthy life skills such as setting long-term goals. The program would be age appropriate and medically accurate.
She also plans on sponsoring a prescription-drug-monitoring program, which would keep a database of anyone who takes prescription narcotics. Henry said she hoped that the database would be helpful in decreasing the number of deaths caused by narcotic overdoses each year.
The legislature had passed five of the eight bills Henry sponsored in her first two terms.
Though Eschenbacher, who ran as a Republican, did not win, he is “the happiest son of a bitch in the world,” he said.
“I lost because the Republican brand is tarnished, not because of my stance on the issues.”
Eschenbacher’s campaign advocated reforming health care. He also saw other issues that needed attention, including Montana’s handling of the mentally ill.
Montana’s system for handling the mentally ill is inadequate, he said. Because there is no insanity defense in Montana, Eschenbacher feels the mentally ill are unnecessarily criminalized, and because there is no facility for treating the mentally ill in Hamilton or Missoula, they are underserved in this part of the state.
Eschenbacher will not be involved in future Missoula politics because he is moving out of the county because of employment.
“Tonight we mourn; tomorrow we go back to work,” said Eschenbacher.
For Henry, that means another two years of work as House Representative of District 96.
Friday, October 31, 2008
BY WILL MELTON
When James Rhines first saw that his two political yard signs were missing, he thought they had blown away. But when he went down the street to recover them, he found no trace of either sign.
Rhines, a Missoula Republican, isn’t the only Missoulian to have signs go missing. One of his signs was for Linda Frey, a University of Montana professor who is running for House District 94. Frey says that 30 MORE
Thursday, October 30, 2008
OCCUPATION: Attorney/proposal writer, Edulog-Logisys, 1995-2008.
FAMILY: Husband, Gus.
EDUCATION: B.A., J.D., University of Montana
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Five Valleys Pachyderm, Republican Central Committee, Big Sky Practical Shooting Club, Missoulians on Bicycles, Moose Lodge.
Best way to meet Minjares? Go online
BY DREW VETERE
Her message is simple. Stop the madness.
Carol Minjares, Republican candidate for House District 97 in Missoula, wants more responsible spending from the state government in Helena. MORE
Saturday, October 25, 2008
State Senate District 7 candidate Judy Stang confirmed that she has called off her write-in campaign and has endorsed fellow Democrat Paul Clark. Stang was running against Clark, who beat her in the primary race, and Republican Greg Hinkle. Senate District 7 includes parts of Sanders, Missoula and Mineral counties. Click here is Stang’s statement
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
BY ADRIENNE BARNETT
A local gun group is taking aim at the 6-Mill Levy for higher education, saying it wants to ‘send a message’ to the Board of Regents that "disarmed victim zones (university campuses) are dangerous places and don't make anyone safer.” -MORE-
Monday, October 20, 2008
HOMETOWN: Born in Morristown, N.J., lives in Trout Creek, Mont.
FAMILY: Wife, Cheryl Des Marias; two children
POLITICAL or PUBLIC SERVICE: Montana House of Representatives, 1998-present
Clark hopes to jump from House to Senate
By ANDREW DUSEK
Trout Creek Democrat Paul Clark says guiding Montana through tougher times will require cooperating with Republicans across the aisle. -MORE-
OCCUPATION: Retired businessman since July 4, 2008; Operates a horse and cattle ranch
HOMETOWN: Emmett, Idaho; he's lived in Missoula for 24 years
FAMILY: Wife, Trish, and one grown son
EDUCATION: BA from Boise State University; Master of Social Work, Portland State University
POLITICAL or PUBLIC SERVICE: Commissioner, Missoula Airport Authority Board; first chairman of the Insure Montana health insurance program; Mansfield Library board member, University of Montana
ORGANIZATIONS: Habitat for Humanity, Rotary International, American Legion, Hellgate Post 27, Team Leader for the American Heart Association’s Annual Heart Walk, Ducks Unlimited, Five Valleys Land Trust, Missoula Food Bank, Poverello Center, Missoula Symphony Board of Directors
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.larsenusa.com/
Larsen says he'll focus on health care, seniors
By ERIN GALLAGHER
Democratic senatorial candidate Cliff Larsen worries about Montana’s seniors. If elected, he said, his top priority would be to ensure that they lose no ground when it comes to benefits and rights. -MORE-
OCCUPATION: Custom Screen Printing & Sign
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Ran for House of Representatives District 95, 2006; member of the Missoula City Planning Board, 2006-Present
Yes, District 95, there is a GOP candidate
BY CATE OLIVER
You haven’t received phone calls, seen many signs or had canvassers knocking at your door campaigning for Kevin Blackler. In fact, if you tried to get a hold of him, you might be skeptical of his existence. I know I was. MORE
By ALLISON MAIER
Republican Jedediah Cox is leaving the country in a week—though he’s technically still in the running for House District 99. Cox, 23, is heading to Ulsan, South Korea, to teach English.
He said he would return to Montana to take his seat in the Legislature if he were elected in November, but admits that is unlikely.-MORE-
Sunday, October 19, 2008
HOMETOWN: Missoula since 1961; born in Chicago, Illinois; she has also lived in India
EDUCATION: Equivalency of 1 year of college in Sociology at Flathead Valley College and McHenry, Illinois. Also trained medical receptionist, but not certified from College of Technology in Missoula
Matthew-Jenkins seeks government reform
By BRENNA BRAATEN
For Kandi Matthew-Jenkins, the urge to enter politics first surface when she read an advertisement saying the city of Missoula was going to raise fees for business licenses. Being the owner of a small business, she went to City Hall to check it out. -MORE-
Tax would finance water system upgradesBy CHARLES PULLIAM
SEELEY LAKE — Residents here will go to the polls Nov. 4 to decide whether to tax tourists to help upgrade the town’s water and sewer systems and save the area’s treasured lake. -MORE-
Thursday, October 16, 2008
By WILL MELTON
The Missoula County Commissioners' meeting room looks like a tornado has run through it. Scraps of paper are strewn about, tables and chairs are shoved ungraciously to the side.
The room has been taken over by the county elections office, which is busy preparing for what is expected to be the biggest election in Missoula history. MORE
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
OCCUPATION: Retired teacher, Hellgate High School in Missoula; Co-owner of The Shack restaurant in Missoula.
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
FAMILY: Wife: Peggy Patrick; one son
EDUCATION: B.A. in English, M.A. in Education and Administration, and M.F.A. in Creative Writing, all from the University of Montana
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Montana House of Representatives, 2004-present.
Hamilton focuses on education policy, growth
By JOSH BENHAM
Robin Hamilton spent 32 years in front of the chalkboard – the last 24 of them teaching English at Hellgate High School. When he lay down his chalk, he went to Helena to try educating lawmakers about how the state can help teachers and students.
“Being in education I saw Republicans reduce funding in the public school system for 16 years,” Hamilton said. As he neared retirement in 2004, friends called and suggested he run for the HD92 seat and take his concerns about school funding to Helena. He won, and he wants to keep his new job. -MORE-
OCCUPATION: Director of development, Opportunity Resources, Missoula
HOMETOWN: Born in Montana, now resides in Piltzville
FAMILY: Wife, Sue; three sons
EDUCATION: M.A., Public Adminstration, Northern Illinois University, 1987; B.A., Forestry, University of Montana, 1978; A.D., Marketing, McHenry College, Crystal Lake, Ill.
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Montana House of Representatives, 2007-present; Bonner Development Group from 1995-1997; Cub Scout Leader; U.S. Marine Corps, 1972-1974.
Furey puts experience to work campaigning
By TROY WARZOCHA
When Tim Furey’s son was called to duty with the Army Reserves, Tim followed suit and landed in Helena. Now he is running for reelection to the seat that was vacated by his son in 2007.
Furey, a Democrat, is running for reelection in House District 91. The seat was held by his son Kevin until he reported for Army Reserve officer training in May of 2007. Furey won the election to fill that seat, but if Furey’s jump into politics was inspired by his son, it is a natural extension of his own involvement in the community. -MORE-
Race Report: Hill challenges Furey for HD91 seat
OCCUPATION: Retired, formerly spent 10 years in banking; worked as a self-employed auctioneer
HOMETOWN: Resident of Florence, Mont.; born in Detroit
FAMILY: Wife, Arlene; two children
EDUCATION: Two years of college, University of Montana.
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Three terms in the Montana House of Representatives.
Hawk backs lower taxes, strong property rights
By KYLE LEHMAN
Ray Hawk is running for reelection on the same platform of reducing taxes and protecting private property rights that has won him his previous three terms representing House District 90 in the Montana House of Representatives. -MORE-
Race Report: Taxes, wolves, energy distinguish Gritzner, Hawk
OCCUPATION: Founder and teacher of Media Arts in the Public Schools; former Hollywood movie producer.
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, N.Y.; current Darby resident.
FAMILY: Wife, Susan; Four step-children
EDUCATION: One and a half years at San Fernando Valley State College as a philosophy major POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Named "Corvallis Community Volunteer of the Year" in 2005; Won Corvallis School District’s "Exemplary Service Award" in 2008.
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.peterrosten.com
Hollywood to Helena:
Ex-producer touts entrepreneurial energy
By NATE ROTT
Most Montana legislative candidates don’t consider party affiliations “disenchanting.” Most candidates haven’t started an academic-based business run almost entirely by students. Most candidates haven’t produced a Hollywood movie. Even fewer have left Hollywood to become a ranch hand in Montana.
Peter Rosten, Democratic candidate for House District 87 in Ravalli County, is not your typical candidate. And, he’s proud of it. -MORE-
Race Report: HD87 candidates tout energy, experience
Monday, October 13, 2008
OCCUPATION: Farmer, property manager, freelance word-processor.
HOMETOWN: Lolo, Mont.
FAMILY: Husband, Bruce; two adult daughters
EDUCATION: B.S. in Biology, University of Montana
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Lolo Community Council for two terms; Girl Scout leader; 4-H leader; Lolo Lions Club; Watershed Education Network; Lolo Watershed Group.
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.electlandquist.com/
Landquist promises to be a good listener
By WILL MELTON
Michele Landquist is running for Missoula County commissioner because she has “witnessed citizens walking away after participating in the public process feeling distraught, as though their concerns, opinions and ideas were being heard but not listened to.” MORE
Race Report: Commission candidates each claim to bring diversity to board
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
EDUCATION: B.A., summa cum laude, The Ohio State University; B.S., summa cum laude, The Ohio State University; M.A., History, The Ohio State University; Ph.D., History, The Ohio State University
Professor of history, University of Montana, 1991-present
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Board of Governors, Historical Society, 2000-2003; Selection Committee, James Madison Fellowship, 1998-1999; President, Western Society for French History, 1992-1993; Executive Committee of Faculty Senate, intermittent; President, Montana Association of Scholars; Governors Board, Western Society of French History; Member, Royal Historical Sociey; Member, Department of Army Historical Advisory Committee; Reviewer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2006; Reviewer, United States Department of Education, 2003-2006; Reader, Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education, 2004;Member, National Security Seminar, 2000; Joined with neighbors to defeat Hillview SID; Fought commercial development in Elk Hills; Helped defeat projected new zoning ordinance
ORGANIZATIONS: 5 Valleys Pachyderm; Organist, St. Francis Church
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.lindafrey.com
Frey vows to fight for right to protest taxes
By BECKY MALEWITZ
Linda Frey has never run for elective office before, but the rookie Republican has several ideas to bring to Montana’s House of Representatives if elected in November. -MORE-
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
OCCUPATION: Professor of economics (retired), University of Montana
HOMETOWN: Missoula, MT
FAMILY: wife Sharon, daughter Myra Frances Frisbie
EDUCATION:Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1972; B.A., economics, Swarthmore College, 1964
PUBLIC OR POLITICAL SERVICE: Volunteer, Peace Corps, 1964-1966; Democratic Central Committee; Governor’s Economic Development Council; Missoula Food Bank; Missoula Medical Aid; Montana Conservation Voters; Missoula Planned Parenthood; Missoula Whitewater Association; Treasurer, Montana Federation of Teachers; President, University Faculty Association
Barrett seeks to protect state's environment
BY KIP SIKORA
Dick Barrett’s campaign for House District 93 draws on 38 years of personal and professional experience in western Montana, including a 25-year career as a professor of economics at The University of Montana. -MORE-
Monday, October 6, 2008
OCCUPATION: Executive Director, Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Missoula
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
FAMILY: Wife, Beth O’Halloran; two children
EDUCATION: B.A., Political Science, University of Montana, 2006 (attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. for three years, finished degree at UM); Polson High School, 1983
POTITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Seeking third term in Montana House, current House minority whip
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.davemcalpin.com//
Health care tops McAlpin's re-election agenda
By MIKE WEBSTER
After introducing legislation in 2005 that urged physical activity to enhance health, then freshman legislator Rep. Dave McAlpin received some interesting hate mail.
“I got hate mail from my niece when I introduced that bill,” McAlpin said. His niece wasn’t wild about the additional years of physical education the bill required in Montana schools. MORE
OCCUPATION: Planner, Missoula City/County Office of Planning and Grants
HOMETOWN: Born in Tacoma, Wash., raised in Livingston, Mont.
EDUCATION: B.A., Environmental Studies, Carroll College, Helena, Mont., 2002;M.S. Environmental Studies, University of Montana, 2006
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: State Representative, House District 97, 2007-2008; House committees: Business and Labor, Human Services, Rules; Board Member of Forward Montana, 2004 – present
Reinhart: Protect environment in push for energy
BY LAURA LUNDQUIST
Michele Reinhart says she is in a rare position, working as both a city/county planner and legislator. “I get to implement the laws that have been passed. So I get to see what works and what doesn’t work.” MORE
OCCUPATION: Development Director, Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
HOMETOWN: Frazer, Mont.
FAMILY: Partner, Ann Mary Dussault
EDUCATION: Undergraduate work in Anthropology at University of Montana; Graduate work in Women’s Studies at The George Washington University
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Involved in politics and public service for 30 years on various state and local campaigns, as well as several terms as a state legislator
Sands' priorities: 'Your money, your issues, your life'
BY MELISSA JENSEN
Diane Sands has been working in politics for three decades and says there is no shortage of work left to do. -MORE-
OCCUPATION: University student, Top Hat bouncer/doorman
HOMETOWN: Morton Grove, Ill.
EDUCATION: Business major, University of Montana, expected graduation in 2010
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: President and public relations chairman, University of Montana College Republicans, 2008; founder, University of Montana Students for Concealed Carry; member, Five Valleys Pachyderm Club; Eagle Scout
Dogiakos backs higher ed, cuts in business tax
BY ADRIENNE BARNETT
With a mohawk and a little hair bleach, Steve Dogiakos might not seem to be your typical Republican politician. -MORE-
AGE: 57 on Oct. 29
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
FAMILY: Husband, Bill Turner; one son
EDUCATION: Graduate work in Communications Studies, University of Montana, 2000; B.S., Psychology, Montana State University, 1994
Malek ranks education and energy as top priorities
By DANIELLE DeBOUVER
Sue Malek, the Democratic candidate in Missoula’s House District 98, says the best advice she ever received came in one word: “Listen.” -MORE-
OCCUPATION: Small business owner
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
FAMILY: Wife, Janice; two sons and a daughter
Deschamps makes residency an issue
By CHRIS ARNESON
The seat for Montana’s House District 98 is wide open this election, and Republican Will Deschamps is running hard on the argument that legislators should live in the district they represent. -MORE-
OCCUPATION: Public defender
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
FAMILY: Wife, Susan Rudisill; three children
EDUCATION: JD, University of Montana, 1995; MPA, University of Montana, 1991; BA, anthropology, Eastern Washington University, 1979
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Officer, United States Army, 1979-1995; United States Air Force, 1975-1977; Montana National Guard, 1973-1975.
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.steve4hd96.com/
For Eschenbacher, less government is best
By WILL GRANT
Steve Eschenbacher wants to put Montana back in the hands of Montanans. He says the strength of the state is its people and so they should have the power. -MORE-
HOMETOWN: Born and raised in Bellingham, Washington but lives in Thompson Falls, Mont.
FAMILY: Wife, Gail; two sons, one daughter
EDUCATION: Attended Skagit Valley College for one year in 1965 before landing an apprenticeship with a corporation on the Washington Coast and becoming a machinist.
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Candidate for Senate District #7, 2004, 2000; Commissioner, Sanders County Park Board.
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.greghinkle.org/
Hinke says he's the conservative in SD 7
By MEGAN McLEAN
Republican Greg Hinkle hopes to win his third race for state senator in District 7 so he can argue for energy efficiency, less state spending and more focus on local agricultural.-MORE-
OCCUPATION: Assistant professor, Montana State University, Bozeman College of Nursing
HOMETOWN: Missoula, Mont.
FAMILY: Husband, Stephen Egli
EDUCATION: B.S., nursing, Mercy College of Detroit, 1974;
M.S., University of California, San Francisco, 1981
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Representative, Montana State House of Representatives, 2004-present.
Henry focuses on better health care for all
BY KELLY ROTHLISBERGER
What do nursing and politics have in common? Teresa Henry. In fact, her 34 years of nursing experience are why she got into politics. MORE
OCCUPATION: Current County Commissioner; former owner of Eastgate Rental and Party Center.
HOMETOWN: Missoula; Born in Omaha, Neb.
FAMILY: Wife Linda; two children
EDUCATION: Two years at University of Nebraska-Omaha before moving to the University of Montana in 1963; graduated from U of M School of Forestry in 1967 with a degree in Forestry and Range Management; M.B.A. in Business Administration, Oregon State University, 1975.
POLITICAL OR PUBLIC SERVICE: Currently serving as county commissioner; served one term on Missoula City Council, 1996-1999; former Missoula City Administrator, 1986-1990; U.S. Army as executive officer of an artillery unit in Vietnam; member and trustee of American Legion Post 27; member of Missoula Chamber of Commerce and Missoula Exchange Club; former member of Missoula County Weed Board, Missoula Chamber of Commerce and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee.
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: http://larryanderson4missoulacounty.com/
Anderson says County Commission needs a Republican
By COLLIN BEHAN
It had been almost 20 years since Larry Anderson had lived in Missoula when he passed through on a road trip to visit in-laws in Butte. He stopped to visit an old college friend, who encouraged him to apply for a job as Missoula’s city administrator. That was in 1986 and the friend was the recently elected mayor of Missoula, Bob Lovegrove. -MORE-
Race Report: Candidates both say they'll bring diversity to commission