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Friday — May 28, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Election paints north-south split

Bowman won with Hailey swing voters in his pocket

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County voters re-drew a north-south county division this week in a primary race for the Blaine County Commission. According to the May 25 election results, which have not yet been canvassed, challenger Tom Bowman ousted incumbent Mary Ann Mix 1,346 to 889.

But the majority of voters in the southern part of the county voted for Mix, while voters in Hailey and north voted for Bowman. It was a marked change from a 1996 primary, when voters from Hailey south voted for Mix, and Mix won the election 1,345 to 1,122.

Arguably, Hailey residents constituted the swing vote.

"I definitely think so. I think that was definitely the swing vote," said Blaine County Clerk Marsha Reimann. "Usually the division is between Hailey and Ketchum. I was really surprised that there was a division from Bellevue north."

Had this week’s election been held only in Bellevue, Picabo, Gannett and Carey—arguably Blaine County’s more conservative cities—Mix, a self-described fiscally conservative Democrat, would have won 213 to 132. The majority of the county’s voters, however, live farther north, particularly the majority of the county’s Democratic voters, and the commission race was a Democratic primary.

In Carey, Picabo and Gannett, more voters cast Republican ballots. In Blaine County’s southernmost voting district, Yale, which is on the banks of the Snake River, all seven voters cast Republican ballots. Of note, one of those voters did not vote in the Blaine County Sheriff race, the only contested race on the Republican ballot.

In the sheriff race, incumbent Walt Femling easily beat his challenger, Hailey Patrol Officer Steve England. Femling won in all 14 Blaine County voting districts, and absentee voters also cast in his favor. Femling will go on to face Hailey Police Lt. Jeff Gunter in the general election in November.

Despite his loss, England said he is proud of his effort in the race.

"I’m happy with the way I campaigned," he said. "I campaigned hard and strong. I went out there door to door. I walked the streets. Win or lose, I’m pleased with the way I campaigned."

England said he hopes to see the winner of November’s sheriff election hire some bilingual, Spanish-speaking dispatchers. He said he hopes the sheriff will solicit more input from other county law enforcement agencies on construction and design of a new county jail.

"If I wouldn’t have campaigned and just put my name on the ballot, I would not be able to hold my head up," England said. "In four more years, I expect to win the election and be sheriff." "Maybe people won’t think I’m too young and inexperienced then."

Tuesday night when election tallies were in, Bowman said he was happy about his performance. He will run unopposed in the general election in November.

"It’s a real humbling experience of course," he said. "I look forward to the position, and I look forward to working with everybody on this. I have a real short memory as far as who is supporting whom, and I hope to be as good a commissioner as Mary Ann Mix."

Femling was similarly pleased.

"We’re happy with the numbers," he said. "We want to thank everybody who worked for the last few days to get the numbers up because early indications were that we would have poor numbers on the Republican side."

Tuesday afternoon Femling showed some nerves. He said he was worried the hotly contested county commission race would siphon votes away from the Republican ticket and skew the public’s will.

But now, he said he is eager to get back to work.

"There are some big issues that will have to be addressed in these next four years," he said. "There’s plenty of work to go around, and I look forward to it."


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