2018 General Election: Hutton, Laird, Colby win contested races in Blaine County
November 14, 2018
The 2018 Mid-term elections are finally over after months of political wrangling back and forth, especially at the Federal and State levels. In Blaine County there were three closely contested races: Blaine County Sheriff, County Commissioner, District 3 and District Court Judge #17. State races were being contested for Public Service Commission, Clerk of Supreme Court, Representative House District 32 as well as a pair of Referendums and Initiatives.
Our actual Election 'Day' was, Tuesday, November 6 but the process really began several weeks ago in the form of 'Absentee' or 'Early' Voting, a process that allowed voters to cast their ballots prior to Election Day and was permitted until November 5 at 12:00 p.m.
Beginning in October an Alternate Election Office located at the Fort Belknap Agency, Hays and Lodge Pole was established to provide eligible voters the opportunity to cast an Absentee Ballot or late register/early vote.
Throughout the county early voting was very high with a request for Ballots totaling 2,409, far exceeding the 1,700 requested just two years ago in the Presidential Election.
"Based on the amount of Absentee Ballots requested, I expected a high voter turnout," said Blaine County Election Supervisor Tammy Williams. The Absentee Ballots returned and accepted accounted for 59% of eligible voters in Blaine County.
The idea of casting ballots early isn't new but as a way of simplifying the process and allowing voters to take their time and feel more comfortable in casting their vote, it certainly has become more popular.
In the 2016 Election a total of 558 Absentee Ballots were cast in Blaine County, less than a third of this years total of 1,970.
Blaine County has 4,194 Registered voters of which 2,995 cast a ballot for a record mid-term voter turnout of 71%. The highest voter turnout in Blaine County was in the 2016 Presidential Election where 72% of eligible voters cast a ballot.
State wide this years General Election had one of the highest voter turnouts ever, 69.93%, for a mid-term election, statistically even with the 1994 voter turnout of 69.93%. The number of voters has increased drastically in those 24 years as 359,455 cast a vote in 1994 while 497, 393 cast a ballot this year.
The highest voter turnout was in the 2016 Presidential Election when 516,901 (74.44%) voters cast.
National and State Elections
At the Federal level voters were asked to cast their vote for United States Senator and United States Representative.
In the Senate race, Democrat Jon Tester was elected to serve a third term in the U.S. Senate defeating Republican Matt Rosendale 50% (247,117) t 47% (231,267).
Tester won 13 of the states 52 counties but those 13 counties included huge wins in Bozeman and Missoula. Included on the list of counties won by Tester were Hill County as well as Blaine County. Tester received 1,874 votes (63.5%) to Rosendale's 975 (33%).
Republican Greg Gianforte won re-election in the U.S. House of representatives by defeating Democratic challenger Kathleen Williams.
Gianforte received 251,611 votes (51%) while Williams recorded 227,036 (46%). In Blaine County Williams had 1,660 votes compared to 1,165 for Gianforte.
In the Public Service Commission District 1 race it was Republican Randy Pinocci defeating Democrat Doug Kaercher with 60% of the vote.
Republican candidate Bowen Greenwood defeated Democrat Rex Renk in the race for Clerk of the Supreme Court 52% - 42%.
Supreme Court Justice #4 Beth Baker and Supreme Court Justice #2 Ingrid Gustafson were both retained.
Legislative Referendum 128 passed with 299,611 (63%) cast for and 178,005 (37%) cast against. In Blaine County the measure passed 2,089 - 821. Legislative Referendum 129 also passed with 293,844 Yes votes (63%) to 174,597 No votes (37%). Blaine County voters cast 1,618 Yes votes and 1,167 No votes.
Initiative No. 185 failed after 258,974 (53%) No votes were cast. Blaine County voters were also opposed to the measure with 1,534 No votes cast to 1,32 Yes Votes.
Initiative No. 186 also failed state wide, with 271,542 (56%) No votes cast, compared to 213,857 Yes votes. Blaine County voters followed suit casting 1,546 yes votes to 1,277 No votes.
Blaine County Races
Kelsie Harwood received 2,519 votes to retain her seat as Blaine County Attorney. Tori MacLean received 2,559 votes as Blaine County Treasurer and Valerie White received 2,499 votes to serve another term as Blaine County Superintendent of School. Tammy Williams will serve another term as Blaine County Clerk and Recorder after receiving 2,568 votes.
In State Representative District 32, incumbent Democrat Jonathan Windy Boy won re-election defeating Republican challenger Gilbert Bruce Meyers 2,234 to 1,351.
In the race for Blaine County Commissioner, District 3 it was Republican Miles Hutton defeating Democrat Kim Hansen 470 to 413.
Hutton won Turner 237-49 and North Chinook 77-38 While Hansen won Harlem 185-129 and Fort Belknap 141-27.
Following the election I asked Hutton a few questions moving forward:
Can you tell me your plans moving forward now that you have been elected?
Hutton - Before January, I intend to travel around the district to see roads, bridges, and other concerns firsthand so I am fully aware of what needs addressed. If any group or organization in District 3 have issues they would like addressed, I would be happy to meet with them to hear their concerns.
What are some of the things you hope to address or get started upon being sworn in?
Hutton - I would like to look over several budgets to see where there may be some excess fat that can be trimmed. I would really like to look into some of the roads that have been neglected. We also have some maintenance issues that need to be looked at.
The County Budget has become quite a talking point amongst constituents: How do you plan on beginning to address their concerns and earn their confidence that progress can be made?
I intend to represent my fellow residents of District 3 the best I can. I think it is important for people to feel they have a voice so I will do my best to be available to those in my district. I am conservative by nature and I think we will be able to look at making a few changes without impacting our essential services.