For many candidates this year, the primary races were a formality needed to get to the main stage of the general elections in November, largely because many candidates did not face a primary opponent.
But for Flathead County Commissioner Pam Holmquist, a primary victory over Republican challenger Tim Harmon means there is still an opportunity to finish her first six-year term with the promise of another.
Holmquist beat Harmon by just under 1,200 votes during the June 7 primary, earning 7,303 to Harmon’s 6,123. She took 54 percent of the vote, while he earned 46 percent, a 10-point difference that stayed in place from the first reports of the vote count until the final results.
As the incumbent, Holmquist risked losing the primary and essentially leaving herself a lame-duck commissioner for the rest of her term as the representative of District 2, had Harmon won. She now faces a challenge from Democrat Eileen Lowery of Kalispell, who ran unopposed in the primary.
Holmquist said she was both excited and a little spent after the June 7 election, and that she is looking forward to continual campaigning this summer before the November generals.
“I just wanted to thank my family and my campaign people who helped me,” Holmquist said. “And the voters, for believing in me and pushing me through to the general. I’m looking forward to that.”
As a candidate, Holmquist championed her work for private property rights, having written and successfully installed a Property Owner’s Bill of Rights in the Flathead County Growth Policy, as well as her financial work with the county budget, which both candidates agreed is healthy.
Harmon, who currently works as the maintenance supervisor at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, decided to throw his hat into the ring after seeing the commission renege on its decision to facilitate a FEMA grant helping shore up a sloughing bluff on Whitefish Stage.
He ran on the promise of making the county commission’s business more transparent, including holding evening meetings for residents who can’t make it to the daytime hearings.
The two GOP candidates were relatively quiet during the primary election, with yard signs doing most of the talking for both.
“Overall, it was a nice, clean race and I appreciated that,” Holmquist said.
She also said she appreciated Harmon’s work and dedication, and that “he did very well” for his first time running for public office.
Holmquist was first elected to represent District 2 – encompassing the southeast section of the county – in 2010, and has served as the chairperson of the board since 2012.
The general election is on Nov. 8.