With 60,514 votes tabulated in Flathead County, Republican Brad Abell has decisively won a seat on the county commission, leading Democratic challenger Kristen Larson with 65% of the vote to Larson’s 35% with the majority of votes counted countywide.
Abell had 38,226 votes as of this afternoon, almost double Larson’s 20,246 votes. The results have yet to be officially certified.
“I feel really great,” Abell said. “It’s been a long season and I’m glad it’s over.”
The first results from the county came nearly three hours after polls closed, but showed Abell with a strong early lead over Larson. Abell spent election night at the Red Lion in Kalispell with several local Republican candidates and said he didn’t go to bed until 2:30 a.m., confident that he would remain the winner.
The Flathead County Commission is the three-person legislative and executive body for the county that deals with a range of governmental areas including budgeting, land use, the health department and emergency services in the county.
Abell won a close three-way primary election in June, winning a plurality 34.2 percent of the vote to become the Republican nominee for Commissioner Phil Mitchell’s seat representing the northern portion of Flathead County. Mitchell opted not to run for reelection.
Once he begins in his new role in January, Abell will be looking at a greater investment in areas such as the parks department, including possible expansion of the trail system to allow for safer pedestrian routes throughout the county and to schools.
“I’ve worked with Foys to Blacktail before and I think [trails] will be my priority,” Abell said. “I want to work on Foys and a rail trail and other pathways and keep them maintained. We have a lot of outside groups that want to spend money and get involved and that can take some burden off the taxpayers.”
In previous interviews with the Beacon, Abell has also said a primary area of concern in the county is rapid growth and development, which he believes could be handled more responsibly. He thinks the county should focus on affordable housing for lower wage earners and curbing rising property taxes.
“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.”
After spending much of the summer and fall campaigning, Abell plans to take a week off of work this month to take his grandson on a hunting trip. He also plans to start attending commissioner meetings soon to “get get my feet in there and get some pointers.”
“I put in over 1,000 hours into my campaign and more than 10,000 miles on my truck,” Abell said. “It feels great to just see the results.”
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