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Close county elections in south-central North Dakota

Several county commission and state’s attorney offices changed hands in south-central counties of North Dakota on election night Tuesday.

In Eddy County a tight two-seat county commission race might wind up in a recount. The unofficial ballots have incumbent Neal Rud with 761 votes followed by Dave Gehrtz with 512 votes. The two defeated Michael Carter with 497 votes and incumbent Jeff Pfau with 475.

Patty Williams, Eddy County auditor, said there are 58 absentee ballots still out and five rejected ballots will be canvassed on Tuesday. It is possible that outstanding and rejected ballots could change the outcome of the election, she said.

Ashley Lies defeated incumbent Eddy County State’s Attorney Travis Peterson by a 670-to-564 vote. Peterson had served since Jan. 1, 2003.

Timothy Dronen and David Schultz won seats on the Kidder County Commission. Commissioners Marlin J. Kapp and Eddie Biegler did not seek re-election.

Leon Klocke defeated five-term incumbent Randi Suckut by a vote of 1,163 to 973 to win a seat on the Wells County Commission.

Wells County Sheriff Christopher Kluth fended off a challenge from Travis Tesch by a vote of 1,289 to 865. Tesch is the Fessenden police chief and a former deputy for Wells County.

Foster County did not get its ballot count to the North Dakota secretary of state’s office until after 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to Brad Solberg, Foster County auditor. He said old machines had crumpled and reprinted two ballots and that poll workers recounted all ballots by hand to be sure the counts all matched with the poll books.

“It matched the hand count,” Solberg said. “It was unfortunate, but I have a good crew and we got through it.”

By a vote of 933 to 678, Foster County State’s Attorney Paul Murphy lost his seat to Kara Brinster, a former prosecutor in Jamestown who currently works for Dalsted & Ryan, P.C. at the Carrington office.

Murphy had resigned as the state’s attorney in January 2016 but won the unopposed seat again in a special election the following November to complete the remainder of the term.

John Wakenfield defeated Loren Alfson 148 to 102 to keep his District 1 Griggs County Commission seat. Two other commissioners ran unopposed.

Griggs County Sheriff Wesley Straight defeated challenger Marcus Haaland, a former deputy in the department who resigned in July, by a vote of 787 to 406. Straight was appointed to replace Sheriff Robert Hook last September. This was his first election to the four-year term.

“I wanted to continue the job as sheriff and I have integrated myself into the community over the last six years and have made this my home,” Straight said. “I am humbled to be elected and to have the support of the community behind me.”

Shawn Olauson won the open District 2 Barnes County Commission seat vacated by Mike Metcalf. District 3 Commissioner Bill Carlblom defeated Eldred Knutson 573 to 317.

Vickey Lovell narrowly defeated Marcy Svenningsen 473 to 432 for the District 4 seat vacated by Rodger Berntson.

Tonya Lynn Duffy defeated Lilie Ann Schoenack 2,755 to 1,787 to become the next Barnes County State’s Attorney. She replaces Carl Martineck who accepted an appointment to become the next city attorney for Valley City in January.

James Shockman defeated Kimberly Radermacher 1,253 to 754 to become the next LaMoure County state’s attorney. He replaces Tonya Duffy, who was elected Barnes County state’s attorney.

Bruce Klein and Robert Flath ran unopposed for the LaMoure County County Commission.

Robert Fernandes will continue as LaMoure County sheriff after defeating Alan Ian Mattice 1,543 to 477.

LaMoure County residents also defeated the Emergency Service Communications (911) fee increase 1,010 to 1,007.

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