News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Allen wins big in commission re-vote
Sep 12, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer
Fremont County Commission District 2 incumbent Dennis Christensen went from a narrow 20-vote win last month to a steep 377-vote loss in Tuesday's special run-off election that determined the office's Republican nominee.
Official results released Wednesday showed challenger Larry Allen securing 882 votes, or about 64 percent, to earn the nomination compared to Christensen with 505, or roughly 36 percent, in the mail-ballot election.
"I feel pretty well humble that that many turned out to vote for me," Allen said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. "I appreciate it, and I hope I can live up to their expectations."
Allen won all but one precinct in the race that had a nearly 45 percent voter turnout, according to official results determined by the Fremont County Canvassing Board after meeting Wednesday morning in Lander.
"I think the canvassing board would declare Larry Allen gets to go on to the general election with 882 votes," said Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese, who is on the board with Republican Darlene Vaughan and Democrat Sally Rowe.
Allen, a 28-year employee of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission who operates a ranch near Lost Cabin, advances without competition to the Nov. 6 general election.
"I just want to thank my family and friends and everybody who backed me up and spread the word and believed in me," the 56-year-old said.
Christensen, a 65-year-old farmer in the Midvale area, did not return a call for comment Wednesday morning.
He appeared to have won the Aug. 21 primary election in which officials the next day declared a "material error" in the Republican contest.
The District 2 race in the 18-1 Big Bend precinct had 30 ballots given out to voters who should not have voted in the commission's primary contest. The precinct is split by two commission districts, one of which is not up for election this year.
As a result of the error, the canvassing board, following state law and Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn's advice, arranged a run-off between Christensen and Allen.
Unofficial primary results at the time put Christensen on top with 541 votes compared to Allen with 521.
Challengers Tim Salazar received 481 votes, while Richard Denke earned 147 in the race, according to the results.
The 30 incorrect ballots would not have changed the outcome for Salazar or Denke, the canvassing board determined in its decision to limit the special election to the top two candidates.
"Julie Freese and her staff did an excellent job," Allen said about the special election. "I think they did the best that they could, and obviously I'm pleased with the outcome."
At the conclusion of the canvassing board meeting, Freese said there were "no irregularities with the mail ballot election." One ballot received by the election office did not have a vote, she said.
Official results showed Christensen winning one of the 10 precincts in commission District 2 that spans much of north Fremont County. The incumbent won Riverton 3-5 with 13 votes compared to Allen's 11 votes.
The challenger won the remaining areas, while the 18-1 Big Bend where the ballot error occurred in last month's primary separated the two candidates by 13 votes.
Perhaps benefiting from the endorsement of Salazar, a Dubois resident and business owner, Allen received 199 votes in that town's precinct, compared to Christensen with 144.
In the precincts around his home in northeast Fremont County, Allen trounced Christensen with 93 votes compared to three in the Shoshoni area and 39 votes compared to one in the Lysite area.
Freese said she plans to discuss with legislators her concerns about language in Wyoming statutes that outlines procedures for special elections such as the one for the commission race.
Some of the concerns involved the decision to allow all eligible District 2 voters to participate, not just the ones who cast ballots in the Aug. 21 primary.
Others questioned why the election did not limit itself to the precinct where the error occurred, while some complained the ballots did not include return postage.