Updated Whitefish Election Results: McGrew Apparent Winner

By Beacon Staff

Turner Askew must decide by Thanksgiving whether he will ask for a recount of votes, after narrowly losing the third open slot on the Whitefish City Council to Martin McGrew. While it appeared Tuesday night that Askew had won, two recounts of ballots picked up more than 500 votes that hadn’t been read properly by voting machines during the initial count. The end result was Martin McGrew pulling ahead by two votes to squeak out a victory, along with Ryan Friel and John Muhlfeld, who won handily.

Flathead Election Supervisor Monica Eisenzimer explained that the voting discrepancies happened because election workers were stuffing mail-in ballots into the voting machines too quickly.

“On Tuesday night when they were feeding them, (the vote-counting machine) was accepting them, but it wasn’t registering them,” Eisenzimer said, adding that she wanted to recount the ballots that night, but it was late and people were clamoring for the results, so she released the initial counts even though she had her doubts. “Next time, everybody will wait and I’ll go with my gut.”

The election department received 1,854 ballots from 3,910 active, registered voters, Eisenzimer said, putting turnout at about 47 percent.

Reached Wednesday, Mayor-elect Mike Jenson said he feels humbled by his support and that he is interested in relieving the decidedly contentious tone of Whitefish politics in recent months.

“I just felt like we were splitting as a community and I felt that I would try to heal some of that,” Jenson said. “I’m not interested in setting a confrontational tone.”

“I think we can take it down a notch.”

Check out the Flathead Beacon’s print edition Wednesday for an extended version of this story with analysis.

Winner: Michael Jenson – 1,008 votes
Cris Coughlin (incumbent) – 745 votes
Nick Palmer – 93 votes

WHITEFISH CITY COUNCIL (top three elected)
Winner: John Muhlfeld (incumbent) – 1,411 votes
Winner: Ryan Friel – 1,003 votes (20.4%)
Winner: Martin McGrew – 694 votes
Turner Askew – 692 votes
Kent Taylor – 541 votes
John Murdock – 536 votes
Mark McGlenn – 247 votes (5%)

Ward 3 Winner: Randy Kenyon (incumbent) – 172 votes (70%)
Richard Hull – 93 votes (30%)

Ward 4 Winner: Duane Larson (incumbent) – 199 votes (67.5%)
Clint Cathcart – 95 votes (32%)

Kalispell wards 1 and 2 were uncontested and Kari Sue Gabriel and Wayne Saverud were reelected.

The three seats for Columbia Falls City Council were uncontested. Donald Barnhart, Douglas Karper and Julie Plevel were reelected.

Related: Whitefish candidate profiles and Kalispell candidate profiles