Republican Brodehl Takes County Commission Seat

GOP candidate easily outpaces Democratic challenger, continuing Republican control over county board

By Molly Priddy
Republican Randy Brodehl watches election results at Scotty's in Kalispell on Nov. 6, 2018. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Randy Brodehl (R) — 63% 28,515

Tom Clark (D) — 37% 16,667

Why it matters

Earning 63 percent of the vote, Republican Randy Brodehl continues the Flathead County Commission’s decade-long GOP makeup at a time when the county is facing an explosion of growth. Brodehl said he would figure out funding mechanisms for the Flathead’s 911 center, and wants to find a way to pay for the infrastructure of growth without over-burdening local taxpayers. Water rights, he said, are going to be one of the next major issues the county faces, and as such, Brodehl opposes the CSKT water compact.

Republican Randy Brodehl handily outpaced his Democratic rival to take the Flathead County Commission District 3 seat during the Nov. 6 general election.

Brodehl, a career firefighter turned state politician, earned 63 percent of Flathead County’s vote, or 28,515 ballots ticked in his favor. Tom Clark, the Democrat in the race, earned 37 percent, or 16,677 votes.

“I am thrilled,” Brodehl said. “We ran this race like we were behind all the time, and it just came together every single day.”

Flathead County has three county commissioners, whose job is essentially to steer the county’s government. The commissioners, paid $71,185 annually, represent three sections of the county; the District 3 seat encompasses the county’s southern and western sections.

Currently, Commissioner Gary Krueger holds the District 3 seat; however, Brodehl beat Krueger in June’s primary election to earn the Republican nod for the ballot. Krueger’s term ends at the end of the year.

“It was a tough primary,” Brodehl said on Nov. 6. “A tough, tough primary. Now we’re there. [I’ll] be serving the people of Flathead County in the future.”

As one of the three Flathead County commissioners, Brodehl will have the power to decide how to tax the residents of Flathead County and where that tax money should be spent. He will also have a say in how the county plans its future in terms of major capital improvement plans, such as building a new jail. The commission is also the final stop in the approval process for development plans on zoned county land.

The Nov. 6 election had major voter turnout, with nearly 69 percent of the county’s registered voters getting involved. For the first part of the evening, it looked as though Clark would hold closer to Brodehl, topping out around 42 percent of the vote before the Republican’s lead stretched out as the night wore on.

With his election, Brodehl keeps the commission’s all-GOP makeup intact; the last Democrat to serve on the board was Joe Brenneman, whose term ended in 2011 with the election of current Commissioner Pam Holmquist.

Clark, the Democrat in this year’s race, said he was disappointed in his vote total and thought it would be higher, but said it’s par for the course in a Republican stronghold like Flathead County.

“I thought we were going to have a better showing, but it’s a tough area for Democrats. I hope Randy keeps his word on the transparency and accessibility,” Clark said.

Brodehl touted accessibility during his campaign, saying he would be available to the people of the valley as a commissioner. Brodehl also said his first order of business as county commissioner would be figuring out a short-term funding solution for the Flathead 911 Emergency Communications Center to give the center’s board a little breathing room to determine a long-term funding plan.

As the representative for House District 9, Brodehl will finish out an eight-year run in the Legislature when his term ends at the end of the year. He served as Kalispell’s fire chief 10 years ago, capping off a 30-plus-year firefighting career.

While in the Legislature, Brodehl sat on the House’s Judicial Branch, Law Enforcement and Justice Committee, and said sentencing laws are changing to reflect full jails, which might mean Flathead County’s plans to save for and build a new jail in the future might not be as pressing as the county initially thought.

As a commissioner, Brodehl believes it is his board’s job to shepherd the county’s growth. He said the county should maintain its semi-rural feel, as well as the values that allow neighbors to know one another and what’s going on in the community.

Paying for growth, however, should not fall squarely on the shoulders of local residents, he said. Brodehl said he would work with the county’s planning department and administration to find solutions, though it will likely prove tricky to direct those funds specifically at the valley’s growth.

During his candidacy for commissioner, Brodehl said he is opposed to the water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. He will replace Krueger, who refused to sign a 2015 letter of opposition from the commission about the compact because he didn’t like the process in which it was drafted.

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