Ravalli County voters oust incumbent commissioners, treasurer

2014-06-04T10:29:00Z 2014-07-05T20:21:53Z Ravalli County voters oust incumbent commissioners, treasurerBy PERRY BACKUS Missoulian The Billings Gazette
June 04, 2014 10:29 am  • 

HAMILTON – The Ravalli County commission will have two new members following Tuesday’s primary vote.

Incumbents Suzy Foss and Ron Stoltz were defeated easily by their challengers.

Incumbent Commissioner Jeff Burrows defeated his Republican challenger Bill Menager by a vote of 3,970 to 3,721.

The winner will face Democrat Clint Burson in the general election.

Burrows said he was surprised when the elections office posted numbers from the absentee ballots, showing him trailing a little.

“I was excited to see it climb back,” he said. “Obviously, I’m feeling a lot of different emotions, including excited, shocked and humbled.”

“I think this shows that rough patch we hit as a commission was pretty detrimental,” Burrows said. “I’ve worked to set myself apart since then and fortunately the voters saw those efforts and agreed.”

Republican Doug Schallenberger took a commanding lead over Foss with a vote of 5,921 to 1,205. The other Republican in the race, Jan Wisniewski, trailed with 1,189 votes.

Democrat Marlin Ostrander Sr. will challenge the winner this fall.

Schallenberger said the election shows that Ravalli County residents wanted a change.

“They were really disappointed with what has been going on,” he said. “The real voters of Ravalli County showed who they are today. They want to get along. They want common sense and more balance.”

“I’m not going to bring any agenda into office with me,” Schallenberger said. “I don’t have to vote any certain way for any party. … Personally, I’m totally happy and really humbled.”

Former state legislator Ray Hawk easily defeated Stoltz by a vote of 5,882 to 2,251.

The winner will face Democrat Mark West.

The primary follows a challenging year for the commission that included turmoil in the county treasurer’s office and a decision to refuse funding for women’s heath services.

Voters also resoundingly moved on from embattled interim treasurer Valerie Stamey.

Stamey has been on paid administrative leave since January after she refused to answer questions about her involvement in a civil lawsuit in South Carolina. Since then, the county has spent more than $70,000 on investigations, an audit and to bring in a retired treasurer to help sort through months of backlogged work.

At press time, Stamey had only garnered 342 votes.

Republican Dan Whitesitt won the county treasurer’s primary race with 5,457 votes over Bonnie Dugan’s 2,246 votes.

The winner will face Democrat Mary Kay Browning.

In a race that will come down to the wire, Sen. Scott Boulanger trailed challenger Rep. Pat Connell by a vote of 2,358 votes to 2,323 for State Senator District 43.

At press time, there were still about 350 ballots left uncounted.

Boulanger was appointed to the post in 2012 after Republican Sen. Bob Lake resigned with two years remaining in his term after being elected to the Montana Public Service Commission.

The race was one of several in the state that took center stage in an ongoing battle in the Republican Party between candidates taking a no-surrender conservative slant versus moderates more willing to seek out middle ground.

Boulanger attempted to paint his opponent as a Democrat in disguise. Connell said he was part of a Republican Party that believes a person doesn’t have to be ultra-conservative to be a member.

The winner will face Democrat Robert Schumacher.

Theresa Manzella defeated fellow Republican Michael “Mike” Jeffords by a vote of 1,339 to 1,037 for State representative District 85. The winner will face James William Youso in the general election.

In the state representative District 88 race, incumbent Ed Greef defeated challenger Russ Vogel by a vote of 1,113 to 382. The winner will face Democrat Dan Metully.

Jennifer Bedey Ray and Jim Pearson led in the race for Justice of the Peace Dept. 1 with votes of 3,528 and 2,569 respectively. Both will move on to the general election.

Challengers Charlene Hanson had 1,981 and Chee Burnsides had 646.

Incumbent Justice Jim Bailey defeated challenger Michael “Rocky” Bailey with a vote of 6,054 to 2,672. They will face each other again in the general election.

The vote for a county government review was passing with a vote of 5,371 to 3,935.

Hamilton voters also elected to form a government study commission by a vote of 406 to 364. The towns of Stevensville, Darby and Pinesdale voted against forming a study commission.

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