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Johnson top vote-getter, Gardner by 1 over Skor

WILLMAR -- Tim Johnson swamped incumbent Steve Gardner and a second challenger, Bob Skor, in the Willmar City Council's Second Ward primary election Tuesday.

But Gardner held a one-vote lead over Skor in the three-way race defined partly by division over the Westwind Estates affordable housing project and concerns over residential flooding in the southwest part of town.

Unofficial results placed Johnson first with 528 votes, Gardner second with 151 and Skor third with 150.

Based on those results, Johnson and Gardner advance to the general election.

Johnson, 61, chief public defender for the 8th Judicial District, said Tuesday night he was pleased with the confidence that the voters have shown thus far. He said there was a heightened interest in the election and the turnout was more than normal.

"I've knocked on doors in the past for some Second Ward candidates and the experience was much different this time, and not just because I was a candidate,'' he said. "I just felt voters seemed to have more interest, which I also think is a good thing.''

Gardner, 49, who had previously acknowledged that voters were dissatisfied with his support for the Westwind project and thought his chances of re-election were less than average, said he was "pleasantly surprised with the results and looks forward to the general election.''

Gardner, a document imaging sales specialist with Bennett Office Technologies in Willmar, said Johnson's results were not unexpected. But Gardner thought the turnout was low compared to four years ago. Gardner is seeking a second four-term to the council seat he's held since 2004.

"We'll see what happens'' between now and when the council meets Thursday to canvass the results, he said. Gardner said he will not participate in the canvassing board meeting.

Skor, 56, a welder for Relco LLC, was not immediately available for comment.

Unofficial results placed the voter turnout in the Second Ward at 29 percent, with 829 votes cast and a total of 2,879 voters registered in the ward's three precincts. Kandiyohi County Auditor Sam Modderman said the turnout was good for a primary election.

The unofficial Second Ward results by precinct are:

? Precinct 1: Johnson -- 81; Gardner -- 55; Skor -- 55; 22 percent turnout (869 registered voters).

? Precinct 2: Johnson -- 244; Gardner -- 46; Skor -- 40; 36 percent turnout (926 registered voters).

? Precinct 3: Johnson -- 203; Gardner -- 50; Skor -- 55; 29 percent turnout (1,084 registered voters).