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Election '08 In Review: Weary county auditor's office will pass off Senate recount

The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and DFL challenger Al Franken is garnering national attention, and it's not clear yet if it will be decided by a state recount or a battle in the courts.

One thing is certain: Stevens County's Auditor's Office won't be actively involved, despite a mandated state recount.

"I'm going to pass that on to some other poor devil," county Auditor Neil Wiese said Thursday.

Because it's not a local election, auditors have the option to pass responsibility for a recount on to another county, and possibly even the state. For example, when a primary election recount was called in a Supreme Court race this fall, Wiese sent the county's ballots on to Chippewa County.

Smaller counties don't have the staff time to devote to the process, he said.

Stevens County staffers spent countless hours testing automated vote counters, and the state was about two weeks late getting ballots out. Adding a primary recount for a state office would have been too taxing, Wiese said.

"I'm really glad we didn't have to do that," he said.

The process, especially in a contentious contest like that between Coleman and Franken, could have had a spill-over effect among election officials.

"If you have a mistake, there it is; it happens," Wiese said. "But if you get a situation where they get on election judges as if they did something wrong, pretty soon you won't have any."

Stevens County had no trouble with voters taking time to get to the polls on Tuesday. More than 84 percent of the county's 6,647 registered voters cast ballots in the general election. That bested the state turnout of about 78 percent.

Here's a look back at election night results:

Stevens County

Board of Commissioners

It wasn't unusual in rural counties to find commissioners who served their boards for a few decades, not just a few terms.

In Stevens County, current commissioner Herb Kloos is well into his third decade on the board, and Bob Stevenson retired a couple of years ago after serving for 40 years.

But four-fifths of the board has turned over in the last seven years, with new commissioner Ron Staples earning the District 3 seat in Tuesday's election. Aside from Kloos, Larry Sayre, who won reelection in District 4 Tuesday, is the longest tenured commissioner, first earning a seat in 2001.

District 1 Commissioner Paul Watzke ran unopposed for a second term this year after winning election initially in 2004. District 5 Commissioner Don Munsterman joined the board in 2006.

Sayre narrowly won back his District 4 seat in Tuesday night's election, and Ron Staples defeated Craig Murphy in the race for the open District 3 seat.

In District 4, the race came down to the final precincts counted early Wednesday morning, with Sayre collecting 553 votes to Donny Wohlers' 519.

In District 1, incumbent Watzke ran unopposed and collected 812 votes. There were 19 write-in ballots cast.

In District 3, Staples, the son of a former county commissioner, earned 544 votes to Murphy's 442.

Morris City Council

Incumbents Bill Storck and Matt Carrington were the top vote-getters for two open seats.

Storck was the top vote-getter with 1,339, and Carrington won back his seat with 1,241 votes. Nathan Petersen finished third with 741 votes and was followed by Cal Van Horn (621), Mike Grittner (357) and Garrett Hoyer (315).

Morris Area

School Board

The Morris Area School Board has three new members joining incumbent Brent Fuhrman. Stan Wulf was the top vote-getter with 2,748 votes, followed by Fuhrman (2,671), James Solvie (2,411) and Dick Metzger (2,382).

7th Congressional District

DFL incumbent Collin Peterson easily defeated Republican challenger Glen Menze, winning 72 percent of the vote. In 1,248 precincts, Peterson had 227,180 votes to Menze's 87,057.

House District 11A

Republican incumbent Torrey Westrom won his seventh term by more than doubling the vote total of his closest challenger.

In 72 precincts, Westrom collected 13,699 votes (65 percent) to trounce DFL challenger Bruce Campbell (6,328) and Independence Party candidate Dave Holman (1,064).

Hancock City Council

Brett Nelson and Dennis Schroeder took the two open seats, with 205 and 181 votes, respectively. They were followed by Troy Hausman (164 votes) and Ron Coates (88). Bruce Schmidgall ran unopposed for mayor and collected 323 votes.

Cyrus City Council

Lois Ness and Allan Rutter were re-elected. Ness was the top vote-getter, with 111, followed by Rutter with 89 and Nola Smith received 52 votes. Roger Pieske ran unopposed for re-election as Cyrus mayor. He received 128 votes.

Donnelly City Council

Howard Hennen won easy re-election as mayor of Donnelly, even though he didn't file for the position. Results from the Donnelly city elections show Hennen received 93 write-in votes. Gregory Greiner got 53 votes. In the city council election, Walter Biesterfeld's name wasn't on the ballot, but he was the top candidate for one of two council seats. Biesterfeld had 78 write-in votes. Gordon Lea also won with 48 votes, just one vote ahead of Howard Kill. Other write-in candidates were Greg Greiner with 41 in the council race, and Alan Recker with 32. Candidate Leigh Edward had 19 votes.

Chokio City Council

Roger Gerdes won an easy re-election as mayor of Chokio. Gerdes received 172 votes, while challenger Dan Podtberg received 37 votes. In the city council race, there were two positions open. Brian Marty received 190 votes, followed by Merrill Carlson with 121, Wayne Picht with 78 votes and Peggy Bargman with 70.

Alberta City Council

Don Kill earned 54 votes to take one of two seats open in the Alberta City Council. Incumbent Mayor Glen Tomoson picked up 49 votes to win another term.


School Board

Jacob Marty was the top vote-getter in a four-candidate race for three spots on the Chokio-Alberta School Board. Kurt Staples collected 491 votes, and Kirby Johnson tallied 378 votes to edge Donald Deneui for the third and final seat on the board.

Cyrus School Board

Lisa Gades totalled 254 votes to earn one of three seats on the Cyrus School Board. Gades will join incumbent John Smith, who earned 239 votes, and Robyn Van Eps (238 votes). Incumbent Tanya Holl received 177 votes.