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Area voters to narrow down list of county candidates

WILLMAR -- Although statewide attention is focused on narrowing down the list of gubernatorial candidates in Tuesday's primary election, there are a number of heated county races also on the ballot.

Primary races are required when more than two candidates file for an office. The top two vote-getters in the primary election ad-vance to the general el-ection. Four counties ha-ve races for sheriff, two counties have races for county attorney and six counties have primary races for commissioner seats.

Having local contested races on the ballot helps bring out voters, said Kandiyohi County Auditor Sam Modderman.

But he worries the summertime primary date -- earlier than usual in Minnesota to make sure overseas military personnel have time to return their absentee ballots -- will result in a low voter turnout.

For those who are unable to vote at their precinct polls on Tuesday, absentee ballots can be cast by mail or by going to a county auditor's office to vote in person.


Voters in Swift, Meeker, Lac qui Parle and Pope counties will be making decisions on which candidates for sheriff will ad-vance to November's election. In all four counties, the position is open because the previously elected sheriff did not file for re-election.

In three counties, the sheriff retired before the term expired and the person appointed to fill the post on a interim basis is now running for election. All three of those candidates are facing competition to hold onto that job.

In Swift County, three candidates are running for a chance to fill the post, which had been held by Sheriff Scott Mattison, who retired this spring.

Chief Deputy John Holtz, who was appointed as interim sheriff by the Swift County Commissioners to fill Mattison's unexpired term, is hoping to hold that job for the next four years.

He's facing Bob Borden, a former Benson Police Department sergeant from Danvers who lost a close race for sheriff four years ago, and Jim Crace, who is Benson's current police chief.

There's also a three-way race for sheriff in Meeker County to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Mike Hirman, who retired in the spring of 2009.

Chief Deputy Jeff Norlin was appointed at that time to fill the post on an interim basis. He's now running for the position and will be facing Benjamin Aho, an investigator with the Litchfield Police Department, and Mark Shoutz, a retired law enforcement officer with experience at the Meeker County Sheriff's Department as well as in area city police departments.

In Lac qui Parle County, Dallas Schellberg was appointed interim sheriff after Sheriff Graylen Carlson took office as a county commissioner in 2009.

Schellberg, who is now seeking election to the job, is facing two opponents in the primary: Rick Halvorson, of Madison, and Kevin Monson of Dawson. Halvorson and Monson are both currently full-time deputies with the Lac qui Parle County Sheriff's Department.

In Pope County, Sheriff Thomas Larson did not file for re-election this year and his term will end in January.

Four candidates are seeking election to the post, including Jim Chan and John Olson, who are both Glenwood police officers; Tim Riley, who is a Pope County sheriff's deputy; and Richard Zimmerman, a native of Glenwood who currently works for the homicide unit with the Minneapolis Police Department.

County Attorney

Two counties, Pope and Kandiyohi, will have primary races to narrow the field of candidates for county attorney.

Longtime Kandiyohi County Attorney Boyd Beccue is being challenged this year by Jennifer "Jenna" Fischer and Bradley Junkermeier. All three are attorneys from Willmar.

In Pope County, incumbent Belvin Doebbert is being opposed by Nan Haggerty, Douglas Hegg and Neil Nelson.

County Commissioners

Six counties will have races Tuesday for seats on the County Board of Commissioners.

In Chippewa County, 5th District Commissioner Gene Van Binsbergen did not file for re-election, leaving the position open for a newcomer.

Marvin Garbe, Todd Hay and David Lieser are running in the primary for that district, which includes the city of Montevideo.

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Harlan Madsen of Lake Lillian is facing two challengers in the primary: John Cunningham, who is currently a school board member with the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District, and Ron Sammons are running for the District 5 seat representing the southern portion of the county.

Five candidates are seeking to fill an open post in Lac qui Parle County's 2nd District, where incumbent Albert Hoffman did not file for re-election.

The candidates include Hoffman's son, Keith Hoffman, as well as Deron Brehmer, Michael Gloege, Randy "Burt" Letrud and John Plathe.

Meeker County Commissioner Amy Wilde, of Dassel, who was first elected to the board in 1997 from the county's 3rd District, is being challenged by Tim Benoit and Darin Packard in the primary election.

In Pope County's 5th District, which is the northeast part of the county, incumbent Randy Shaw is being challenged by Robert McCrory and Cody Rogahn.

There's a wide-open race for the 2nd District commissioner seat in Swift County, where incumbent Dick Hanson did not file for re-election. Three candidates are seeking the post: Dennis Dehaan, Gary Klemm and Mason Schirmer.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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