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Voters in area counties pick candidates for sheriff, attorney, county commissioner

WILLMAR -- Although statewide attention was focused Tuesday on narrowing down the list of gubernatorial candidates, there were also a number of county races 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 advance to the general election.

Four counties had races for sheriff, two counties had races for county attorney and six counties had primary races for commissioner seats.

The following results are according to numbers on the Secretary of State's website.


Voters in Swift, Meeker, Lac qui Parle and Pope counties cast ballots to decide which candidates for sheriff will advance to the November 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 an interim basis ran for election. All three of those candidates faced competition to hold on to that job.

In Swift County, three candidates sought to fill the position that had been held by Sheriff Scott Mattison, who retired this spring.

Chief Deputy John Holtz was appointed as interim sheriff by the Swift County Commissioners to fill Mattison's unexpired term.

Holtz faced two opponents in Tuesday's election: 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.

On Tuesday, Holtz won the most votes with 41.84 percent, and he will now face Crace in November for a four-year term.

There was 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.

In Tuesday's election, Norlin faced both 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.

Aho pulled through and will challenge Norlin in November's general election. Norlin won 56.88 percent of the votes Tuesday, and Aho won 23.5 percent.

In Lac qui Parle County, sheriff candidates Rick Halvorson and Kevin Monson will advance to November's election. The two men defeated Dallas Schellberg, who sought election after being appointed interim sheriff when Sheriff Graylen Carlson took office as a county commissioner in 2009.

Both Halvorson, of Madison, and Monson, of Dawson, are 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 sought 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.

At press time, 30 of 31 precincts for Pope County had reported, showing Riley leading the polls with 46.98 percent, followed by Zimmerman with 24.31 percent.

County Attorney

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

In Pope County, incumbent Belvin Doebbert filed for re-election, and Nan Haggerty, Douglas Hegg and Neil Nelson also filed for the seat.

With 30 of 31 precincts reporting at press time, Nelson held a strong lead in the polls with 47.51 percent of the votes. Haggerty followed with 24.23 percent.

In Kandiyohi County, longtime County Attorney Boyd Beccue will face Willmar attorney Jennifer "Jenna" Fischer in November's general election. Fischer won 63.76 percent of the overall vote on Tuesday.

Bradley Junkermeier, who is also an attorney from Willmar, was eliminated in Tuesday's primary. (See related story.)

County Commissioner

Six counties had primary 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 ran in the primary for that district, which includes the city of Montevideo.

With 10 of 23 precincts reporting at press time, Lieser held a strong lead over both his opponents at 68.74 percent. Hay was coming in second with 17.39 percent of the votes.

Five candidates sought to fill an open post in Lac qui Parle County's 2nd District, where incumbent Albert Hoffman did not file for re-election. Deron Brehmer and Randy "Burt" Letrud will now advance to November's general election.

The other candidates for the position included Hoffman's son, Keith Hoffman, as well as Michael Gloege 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, was challenged by Tim Benoit and Darin Packard in the primary election.

Wilde will advance to November's election, facing Benoit, who led overall in the polls with 50.66 percent.

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

With 30 of 31 precincts reporting at press time, Shaw led the votes with 36.5 percent, followed by Rogahn with 33.56 percent.

There was 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 sought the post: Dennis Dehaan, Gary Klemm and Mason Schirmer.

Klemm, who brought in 66.07 percent of the votes, and Dehaan will now face each other in November.

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Harlan Madsen of Lake Lillian faced 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.

Madsen won 58.66 percent of the votes Tuesday, followed by Cunningham with 32.06 percent. The two will now challenge each other in November for the District 5 seat representing the southern portion of the county. (See related story.)