By ALLISON MAIER and MIKE GERRITY
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.