On Tuesday, voters in Flathead County narrowed the race for the county commission District 2 seat down from five candidates to two, sending Democratic incumbent Joe Brenneman and Republican Pam Holmquist to the general election in November.
Brenneman beat Democratic challenger Noel Gorton, earning 2,355 votes for 72 percent of the Democratic ballots turned in. Gorton garnered 742 votes, equaling roughly 23 percent.
In the Republican race, Holmquist earned 45 percent of the ballots with 5,940 votes. Republican challenger Howard Gipe came in second behind Holmquist with 36 percent of the votes and Patrick Nickol earned 12 percent.
With a full field of challengers eyeing the seat he’s held since 2005, Brenneman focused his campaign on maintaining water quality in Flathead County, improving public safety and searching for more efficient means of running the county.
After the primary election, Brenneman said he wanted to thank voters who filled out the Democrat ballot despite knowing that they could not vote for the county sheriff. All of the candidates for county sheriff ran on the GOP ticket, so not only was the primary the deciding election, it was limited to Republican voters.
Brenneman also said he appreciated Gorton entering the race and her solid campaign.
“(Gorton) ran a clean campaign and asked good questions,” Brenneman said. “I think my campaign in the fall will be better for it.”
For the next few months, Brenneman said he would continue to raise money for his campaign and hopes to attend more political events. He also plans to get out and chat with county residents throughout the summer and fall.
Voter turnout in Flathead County ended up slightly above 28 percent, with 16,550 votes cast. Republican ballots for county commissioner nearly quadrupled Democratic ballots, 12,303 to 3,112.
Taking these numbers into account, Brenneman said he is prepared for an interesting race in November.
“I’ve known from the day I filed that it was going to be an uphill battle, running as a Democrat and the incumbent in Flathead County,” Brenneman said. “Historically, it hasn’t proven to always be a positive experience; that doesn’t mean you don’t fight the good fight.”
For her part, Holmquist said she wasn’t sure why so many people voted on the Republican ticket, but said she suspects it had something to do with the sheriff’s race.
Regardless of their reasons for voting in her primary, Holmquist said she appreciated the support from county residents and that she plans on continuing to campaign throughout the summer.
“I’m just thankful and glad that I’m moving on,” Holmquist said.
Holmquist’s primary campaign hinged on job creation in Flathead County, along with a conservative perspective on property rights, the county budget and Montana’s recent property reappraisal.
As a businesswoman in Evergreen for 32 years, Holmquist said she understands how important it is to save money during boom economic times to help when things eventually go bust.
Holmquist and her husband Wes own Rocky Mountain Marine, so summer is their busy time. However, she said her family would cover for her so she can focus on her run for the District 2 seat and the general election in November.
“I’m just going to take some months here to prepare for the general so that I can hit the ground running (if elected),” Holmquist said.
The general election takes place Nov. 2.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.