Before congratulating the Primary Election winners, let’s applaud the other candidates whose campaigns contributed to the largest-ever Billings city primary turnout.
With six candidates vying for the mayor’s office, and 15 more seeking five City Council ward seats, the array of choices convinced 24,228 voters to cast ballots, according to unofficial results from the Yellowstone County elections office. Eight years ago, the last time there was no incumbent running for mayor, the city election drew 20,966 ballots, the previous record turnout.
So here’s a salute to all the men and women who worked to tell voters about their candidacy. The campaigns were positive, issue-oriented efforts that should make Billings proud. The candidates who didn’t finish in the top two on Tuesday still have good ideas and energy that our city needs. They should be encouraged to keep participating in local government. Our community will benefit if these bright, articulate candidates volunteer on city boards to vet policy choices and advise the council.
The mayoral candidate field has been narrowed to Bill Cole and Jeff Essmann, who each ran strong campaigns.
In Ward 1, incumbent Mike Yakawich and Charlie Smilie advanced to the General Election ballot.
In Ward 2, Frank Ewalt and Roger Gravgaard were the top vote-getters.
In Ward 3, Nadja Brown and Denise Joy were the top finishers among five on the ballot.
In Ward 4, Penny Ronning and George Blackard will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.
In Ward 5, incumbent Shaun Brown faces Dennis Ulvestad.
We call on each of these General Election candidates to continue to run clean, fair campaigns that will engage voters to participate and make Billings an even better place to live, work and play.
We also challenge the citizens of Billings to step up to their responsibility as voters. The best-ever Primary Election turnout was still just 43.33 percent of registered voters, and turnout was less in three city wards.
Ward 1, which spans a portion of the Heights around Alkali Creek, South Park, North Park and Pioneer Park neighborhoods cast 3,157 ballots for a 37.47 percent turnout. Ward 1 also has the fewest registered voters — 8,425.
Ward 4 in west Billings has 14,044 registered voters, who cast 7,137 ballots for a turnout of 50.82 percent. There were only two candidates vying for the Ward 4 seat, yet turnout was heavier than in Wards 2, 3 and 5 where candidates were eliminated Tuesday.
Citizens must vote to have their opinions counted. Ballots for the Nov. 7 election will be mailed to all registered voters on Oct. 18.
Eligible residents, who aren’t yet registered to vote, can register by 5 p.m. on Oct. 10 to get a mail ballot for the General Election. After that, registration and ballots will be available only at the elections office in the Yellowstone County Courthouse.
The Billings City Council makes decisions that affect our Police and Fire departments, our street, sewer and water service, our parks and trails, zoning and economic development. Be part of selecting these key decision-makers.