With 10 of Blaine County's 15 precincts reporting late Tuesday evening, incumbent Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen, a Democrat, had opened up a comfortable lead in his race against Bellevue Republican Dale Ewersen.
Based on the early results, Schoen was leading with XXXXX votes, or about XX percent of the returns. Ewersen was at XXXX votes, or about XX percent of the early returns.
A confident Schoen predicted the remaining ballots would maintain his lead.
"The vote totals reflect the hard work I put in over the past two years," he said.
Ewersen was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
In a packed Pizza and Politics forum at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey last month, Schoen and Ewersen each painted a stark contrast between himself and his opponent in the quest to represent Blaine County's District 1 County Commission seat.
Schoen and Ewersen both argued that their governing styles and political positions made them better suited to represent the more conservative and agricultural-leaning district.
During the lead-up to the vote, Schoen's primary message was one of bringing leaders from the county and area municipalities together to solve the complex funding challenges faced by local governments. He said those include recent disagreements over how to fund consolidated emergency dispatch services.
Schoen predicted that an "equitable" solution will be found to the impasse over dispatch funding, which began earlier this year after Hailey protested its share for funding dispatchers' salaries. Also Tuesday, county voters were set to consider a permanent override to local property-tax levy rates that would be used to fund the annual $835,000 cost of the dispatcher salaries.
Though he admitted the dispatch discussion is a "complex issue," Schoen also predicted that "we will get through this."
A proponent of smaller government—"I'm fiscally conservative to begin with."—Ewersen sought to convince voters that the county jumped the gun by unveiling a full-fledged consolidated dispatch service. In his view, a less complicated dispatch system would have been more effective at first.
Schoen repeatedly raised the issue of consolidating countywide emergency services like fire, police and ambulance into one system to encourage cost efficiencies for local taxpayers.
Both men acknowledged that local governments face declining revenues and a need to cut back on their budgets.
Ewersen said his business background—as co-owner of Splash and Dash Texaco convenience store and car wash in Bellevue—as well as his experience as Bellevue mayor and city councilman in the 1980s give him the tools he needs during these trying times.
In 2006, Schoen beat Ewersen by 23 percent in the race to represent District 1.