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On to November

Aug 22, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Primary has its close shaves

For the longest time Tuesday night, it looked as if the two Fremont County Commissioners who faced primary election challengers had been defeated.

Then, when the last two voting precincts -- both small -- reported their vote counts, the tide turned. Republicans Doug Thompson and Dennis Christensen had survived the primary after all.

This was election night in Fremont County. As always, the results ran a gamut ranging from predictable to astonishing. When the dust settled, the county found itself aiming for Nov. 6 and the general election.

The elimination of at-large, countywide voting in favor of district balloting showed its effects. Thompson, untouchable in three previous votes, got all he wanted and then some in the new, narrower district race. It took late votes from a Lander precinct to survive the challenge from Jennifer McCarty.

Christensen, who enjoyed strong support from Riverton voters during his years as a Central Wyoming College trustee, couldn't count on those votes in the new district format. Only the final handful of ballots from Pavillion edged him past Larry Allen.

Even Pat Hickerson, unopposed officially in his county commission district after initial challenger Debbie Scheler dropped out weeks ago, still saw Scheler get 40 percent of the vote.

Tuesday was a wake-up call for the commissioners, who all proved fall more vulnerable than conventional wisdom would have thought, and also for the voters, who are still absorbing the narrowing effect the new districts are having on elections.

Each election has its emerging stars, and Tuesday had a couple of them. Lloyd Larsen, of Lander, was one. He dominated his three-way Republican primary to replace Del McOmie in Wyoming House District 54. He outpolled his two rivals combined, and this was not a weak field.

And Jim Allen cruised to a big win over Daniel Cardenas in the GOP primary for House District 33 for the right to challenge incumbent Democrat Patrick Goggles, of Ethete. Cardenas nearly beat Goggles two years ago, and Allen, a former legislator might have a better chance than most to unseat the popular Goggles in the reservation district.

City council ballots were set for November in most cases, but in a few there appear to be enough write-in votes that it's likely an unopposed candidate or two will face competition after all.

The ballot gets heavier in November. School and college board races will be added, along with the important ballot question on the optional 1 percent sales tax. The congressional races in Wyoming figure to be lopsided, and Mitt Romney will rout President Obama in our state, but the presence of a presidential vote on the ballot is sure to improve voter turnout.

That's always good, because the more people who participate in an election, the more legitimacy its winner can claim as they implement policy and make decisions. Elections work best when the victors and voters both emerge with an idea of what is supposed to come next.

What comes next in Fremont County is the general vote Nov. 6. Tuesday set the stage. Now we all will watch, wait and then perform the final act.

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