Brad Abell has apparently emerged from a three-way primary field to become the Republican nominee for a seat on the Flathead County Commission currently held by Phil Mitchell, who didn’t run for reelection.
Barring a recount changing the results of the tightly contested race, Abell will go up against Democrat Kristen Larson in the November general election. Larson, who lives in Whitefish and owns Glacier Lanes & Casino in Columbia Falls, ran unopposed in the June 2 primary.
According to the Flathead County Election Department, Abell received 7,157 votes (34.2%) and Tony Brockman received 7,069 votes (33.8%), giving Abell an 88-vote edge. The race has been flagged for a possible recount. The third Republican candidate, Elliot Adams, received 32% of the vote.
While the results had not yet been certified, Abell is operating under the assumption that he will be the Republican nominee in November. Abell is a heavy-equipment operator at Weyerhaeuser’s medium-density fibreboard plant in Columbia Falls where he has worked for almost 30 years. He was working an overnight shift on June 2 when he learned that he had become the likely nominee.
Abell admitted to being surprised that he won the race, noting that his opponents had “nicer signs.” However, he believed that his background is what set him apart in the race.
“From the beginning, I’ve run as a blue-collar guy, someone who’s gone to work as a shift worker at 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.,” he said. “I’m a blue-collar guy who can hopefully bring some common sense to the table.”
During a previous interview with the Beacon, Abell said that while there were many issues that need to be addressed in the valley, the one that concerns him the most is the area’s lack of affordable housing. He said rising property taxes or other fees are a burden on homeowners and renters alike, pushing out working-class people.
“I want my children and grandchildren to be able to afford to live in the valley,” he said. “A lot of people are getting pushed out.”
Abell said as commissioner he would ensure that people can talk to him about anything on their mind. He said he would maintain an open-door policy at his office and said he would always be available to constituents to “chew me out” if they want. He said he does not plan on dressing up for any meetings, though.
“Some people have told me I need to get a sports jacket and tie, but that’s just not me,” he said. “I’m more comfortable in work boots.”
If elected, Abell said he will likely leave his job at the MDF plant, although it would be a bittersweet departure because it would come short of his 30th anniversary with Plum Creek and Weyerhaeuser.