County goes red
November 07, 2012
Kunz joins Park on commission while Liford keeps his office
Teton Valley is not the Mormon stronghold it once was, but as a Republican member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mitt Romney’s bid for president may have had something to do with the victories of incumbent commissioner Kelly Park and newcomer Sid Kunz.
“I thought Sue was going to win this with all the hard work she put into her campaign,” Park said of his challenger, Sue Muncaster, a Democrat he beat by 320 votes on Tuesday. “What I think really got me over the edge was our Republican women’s group locally. They really went to bat for me.”
Co-founder of the women’s group, Shelia Russell, said getting information to voters through the local newspaper was an incredibly effective tool in getting more people out to vote.
“We encouraged people to get out and vote and helped them with that process,” Russell said. “Our efforts were all about letting people know their options and making sure they knew that every vote can make a difference.”
Park said his re-election made him feel like people thought he was doing a good enough job to let him keep at it for four more years, but he acknowledged the strife that has existed between the two parties and the need to
“This is not about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about community, and we’ll just have to keep moving. We’ll have to heal wounds that will probably come out of this, but I am glad Sue and I had such a cordial relationship and remained civil. She is a great lady.”
A much tighter race was won by Sid Kunz Tuesday when he defeated Democrat Kim Keeley by only 51 votes.
“I don’t have all the answers right now, but I didn’t make a campaign promise that I won’t keep,” Kunz said of his two-year term that begins in 2013. “I know there will be a huge learning curve, but I’m up for the challenge.”
Kunz said he knew his would be a tight race, but he could not put his finger on the difference between his margin of victory and Park’s. Regardless, Kunz congratulated Keeley on a well-run campaign, though he declined to take her elk hunting as a concession.
“I like to interact with new people, but hunting secrets are pretty sacred,” he said. “You work a long time for those.”
The tightest race in Teton County followed the most divided campaigns between incumbent Sheriff Tony Liford and challenger Lindsey Moss. That election was decided by only 34 votes in favor of keeping Liford in office.
“I’m concerned that there are over 2,000 in this county who don’t think I’m doing a good job,” Liford said. “I’m more than willing to speak with anyone at anytime about any issue they have with my office.”
With regard to the communication breakdown that has existed between the Sheriff’s Office and the Prosecuting Attorney in Teton County, Liford said that’s not his problem to fix.
“The ball is in their court. The work of my guys is solid, and there is no animosity from me based on the campaign. Let’s move on.” Voter turnout
Voter turnout during this week rivaled but did not exceed numbers from 2008, according to Teton County Clerk Mary Lou Hansen. With 78 percent of the registered voters turning out in 2008, this election saw 72 percent. A high number of absentee voters was acknowledged by Hansen, with 49.5 percent voting absentee this year compared to a record 51 percent voting absentee in 2008.
“Statewide, I think our county has more absentee voters than any other,” Hansen said.
Another remarkable statistic from Hansen’s office was that 795 voters registered on Election Day in 2012 compared to 695 voters in 2008. Anyone who registers after October 12 is also required to vote at that time, Hansen said, but her numbers show that 570 voters in Teton County registered and then voted yesterday.
With an error in reporting during the primary election, Hansen said her office triple-checked data before releasing it Tuesday night, accounting for time results were available, which was around 11 p.m.
State and national races
Local State Representative candidates Ralph Mossman and Bob Fitzgerald, both Democrats, threw their hats in the ring, Mossman for the third time in his political career. Mossman bested Republican incumbent Tom Loertscher by 127 votes in Teton County, though Loertscher defeated Mossman handily in District 32 by 9,260 votes.
Fitzgerald was bested by Republican incumbent Marc Gibbs in Teton County by 646 votes, and Gibbs won District 32 by 11,270.
And though President Barack Obama was re-elected by popular vote as well as the Electoral College, Obama lost Teton County to Mitt Romney by 532 votes. As the only Republican Mormon candidates this county has every seen, there is the suggestion his bid for president may have had an impact in local elections.