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Christensen says he 'had a feeling' he wouldn't keep District 2 seat

Sep 13, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Fremont County commissioner Dennis Christensen thought that Tuesday's special mail ballot election wouldn't pan out for him even before results arrived.

"I just had a feeling," the Midvale-area farmer said. "It was just one of those you get in your gut like you've been kicked a little bit. There was a lot of negative sentiment out there for incumbents, and I just got caught up in that."

Christensen, the first-term incumbent seeking re-election for the commission's District 2 seat, lost the special run-off in the Republican Party primary contest against his challenger, Larry Allen.

Official results released Wednesday showed Allen secured 882 votes, or about 64 percent, compared to Christensen's 505 votes, or roughly 36 percent.

Allen, a Lost Cabin area rancher and longtime Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission worker, won all but one precinct in the race that had a nearly 45 percent voter turnout.

Before the declaration of a material error in the contest, unofficial results in the District 2 race showed a 1 percent victory: Christensen had 541 votes, or 31 percent, while Allen had 521 votes, or nearly 30 percent.

Christensen thanked the voters who cast ballots in his favor.

"I do have a great support group that did show up, and they voted in both elections," he said. "I certainly do thank them."

He questioned the process used in the special election for his District 2 primary, wondering if the outcome would have changed through a different election process.

"I think it needs to be tweaked a little bit," he said. "I understand how they did it. They figured the two candidates that were possible winners, and everybody else was definitely out. It may have been a different turnout for the top three."

In the four-way District 2 primary with Christensen and Allen, candidate Tim Salazar received 481 votes while Richard Denke earned 147.

Perhaps limiting the special election to the 18-1 Big Bend precinct where 30 ballots went out to voters who should not have voted in the commission's District 2 primary contest could have changed the outcome as well.

"They knew where the ballots were wrong, so whether you say, 'OK, we're going to reopen the polls in that precinct only,' I don't know if that would have been a change," Christensen said.

Christensen said he plans to continue working for the betterment of the county for the rest of his term in 2012.

Incumbents

Other commission incumbents faced uphill battles in their primary election campaigns.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson inched by his closest competitor by a 1 percent margin. Thompson, a Jeffrey City area rancher, earned 504 votes, or about 38 percent, in the District 5 race, compared to closest challenger Jennifer McCarty, of rural Lander, with 485 votes, or roughly 37 percent.

In the commission District 4 race, incumbent Pat Hickerson, of Lander, was uncontested in the Republican primary, but many voters chose to support a candidate who had withdrawn. Hickerson received 746 votes, or roughly 52 percent, while ex-candidate Debbie Scheler, of Lander, got 540 votes, or about 37 percent. Scheler's name appeared on ballots despite her withdrawal from the race early in the political season.

Allen advances to the Nov. 6 general election unchallenged, but Thompson and Hickerson continue to face opposition in their races.

Stephanie Kessler, of Lander, is running as an independent candidate against Hickerson in the District 4 race. In the District 5 race, Nathan Maxon, of Lander, is running as an independent candidate against Thompson.

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