Slotnick tops incumbent Curtiss for Missoula County commissioner

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, political newcomer Josh Slotnick was leading the Democratic primary for Missoula County commissioner. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Josh Slotnick took an early lead and widened it early Wednesday morning to win the Democratic primary for Missoula County commissioner over incumbent Jean Curtiss.

Because there is no Republican in the race, Tuesday’s primary determined the commissioner’s race.

Final unofficial vote totals posted with the Secretary of State’s office showed Slotnick with 11,065 votes, or 58 percent, to Curtiss’ 7,866 votes, or 42 percent.

With Slotnick campaigning on agricultural and land use issues and Curtiss on jobs and the economy, the race was a spirited one. Neither candidate was willing to call the contest late Tuesday.

“I’m proud of the campaign that we’ve run and the things I’ve done in the last 18 years,” said Curtiss. “In the end, we’ll just see what the voters think.”

Ballot returns came in slowly on Tuesday night, with 18,510 ballots counted by 11 p.m. Curtiss watched returns at Brooks and Browns while Slotnick did the same at Plonk in downtown Missoula.

Slotnick said he was cautiously optimistic in how the returns were trending in his favor.

Missoula County election workers were counting ballots deep into the night, with what could be a record primary election turnout. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

“I’m grateful to be here and ahead rather than behind,” he said. “I feel super proud of our campaign. Even if we were to lose, I’d be proud of it. We had almost 400 donors, and that’s 400 people who felt this was a campaign worth supporting with $20 or $50.”

Missoula County elections administrator Dayna Causby said 24,000 ballots were accepted shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. That doesn’t include ballots cast at the polling places scattered across the county.

Several thousand ballots had yet to be counted by 11 p.m. when the candidates were interviewed, and nearly two-thirds of those were likely on the Democratic ticket.

“We still have Election Day results to be returned from four of our precincts, Swan, Seeley Lake, Potomac and Petty Creek,” Causby said. “All of those ballots received at 8 p.m. at the post office have to be processed, and all of our ballots at the polling places are still in the process.”

Watch for more on the race and comments from both candidates later Wednesday.