GOP Sweeps Natrona County Commission Open Seats; 1-Cent, Lodging Taxes Pass Overwhelmingly
Republicans took all three open seats on the five-member Natrona County Commission in Tuesday's general election, according to unofficial results with all 46 county precincts reporting.
The major upset of the local general election happened in Casper's Ward 2 with newcomer Shawn Johnson unseating Mayor Paul Meyer in the nonpartisan city council race.
Two races will require recounts. The second- and third-place candidates for the Evansville and Mills town councils were separated by less than 1 percent of votes cast, Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto said. The recounts probably will happen Thursday with Joseph Knop and Michael Botkin of Evansville, and Mary Ellen Renz and Ruth Pitts of Mills, she said.
Incumbents in the countywide and legislative races handily won re-election, with many candidates having minor or no opposition.
On the Natrona County School District board of trustees, incumbent Dave Applegate lead the pack of five candidates for four open positions.
And despite some semi-organized opposition, voters approved the optional 1-cent sales tax by 14,954 votes, or 71 percent of the total, to 6,094 votes, or 28 percent of the total. Likewise, voters approved a one-cent increase in the lodging tax from 3 cents to 4 cents by approximately the same numbers of votes.
Of all the local races, the county commission was the most contested, with seven candidates vying for three positions. Republican commissioner Bill McDowell did not seek a second term.
Terry Wingerter, the lone Democrat on the commission, took his loss stride as he watched the returns come in at the old courthouse.
"I'm going to be around," Wingerter said. "And just in case, I'm not going to throw my signs away."
He placed fifth with 7,898 votes. Republicans took all three open positions, lead by John Lawson with 10,348 votes, incumbent Rob Hendry with 10,208 votes and Steve Schlager with 8,975 votes.
Independent and current Casper City Councilman Keith Goodenough came in fourth with 8,234 votes, followed by Democrat Mike Gilmore with 5,314 votes and Constitution Party candidate Linda Bergeron with 3,703 votes.
Wingerter is finishing his 20th year with the commission, plus eight years on Casper City Council, he said. "I was out there waving at street cars, I did everything possible so it was just not meant to be."
People tell him that having the "D" by his name on the ballot hurts his election chances, but he refuses to switch parties, he said.
Hendry, on the other hand, doesn't think being a Republican is as much an advantage for him as is living as far away from Casper as possible before crossing the Fremont County line, he said.
"I represent the rural part of Natrona County, and I think that catches the eye of people," he said. "We need somebody to represent us out there; and hopefully I can start working on some roads."
In the Casper City Council Race for Ward 1 in the central part of the city, Robin Mundell defeated former councilwoman Kim Holloway by 2,350 votes to 1,631 votes.
In Ward 2, Johnson defeated Meyer by 2,420 votes to 2,238 votes
In Ward 3 with two seats, Ray Pacheco garnered 3,098 votes to incumbent Kenyne Schlager's 2,406 votes. William Street came in third with 2,022 votes followed by Phil Jones with 1,486 votes.