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City Council sets September primary in 3 wards; Ault dropped from ballot in Ward 4

Mail in Ballots
September’s Missoula city primary election will be conducted by mail only. (photo credit: Missoula Current)

-Sherry Devlin reporting for the Missoula Current

MISSOULA – Alan Ault’s name will not be on the ballot this year as a candidate for Missoula City Council from Ward 4, the state’s commissioner of political practices ruled late Monday.

Ault did not file the necessary paperwork on time, city clerk Marty Rehbein announced at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

That means there will be no September primary election in Ward 4, where there are now just two candidates for the open seat created by Councilman John DiBari’s decision not to run for reelection.

The two remaining candidates are Amber Sherrill and Greg Strandberg.

On a 9-1 vote, the council did approve a primary election in three other city wards where there are three candidates for City Council.

Those wards and candidates are:

Ward 1

  • Heidi West (incumbent)
  • Elizabeth Weaver
  • Amber Shaffer

Ward 3

  • Gwen Jones (incumbent)
  • Dakota Hileman
  • Drew Iverson

Ward 5

  • Julie Armstrong (incumbent)
  • John Contos
  • Alex Fregerio

Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Ramos cast the lone dissenting vote on the primary election, which will be held by mail-in ballot.

In a committee meeting last week, Ramos said his objection is centered on the cost of the election, which with three races now on the ballot will be $41,000.

The primary “is not going to hurt any of these candidates,” Ramos said, “but it’s going to hurt the taxpayers. It seems like our city is fairly selective on what they do and don’t want to take to a vote, and they use cost as a malleable term and justification for it.”

While the city will conduct a primary to ensure that only two candidates appear on this November’s ballot, it has permitted more than two candidates on the ballot in the past.

In the 2015 general election, three candidates appeared on the ballot in Ward 6. In 2017, Ward 3 saw three candidates on the ballot, while Ward 4 saw four candidates.

That latter election saw two left-leaning candidates split each other’s vote, essentially handing the seat to right-leaning council member Ramos, who also ran a strong campaign.

The top two vote-getters in each ward will move on to November’s general election. Missoula City Council seats are non-partisan.

In all, 15 candidates were certified for the council election by the commissioner of political practices.

Those wards and candidates that will move directly to November’s vote without the intermediate primary election are:

Ward 2

  • Mirtha Becerra (incumbent)
  • Brent Sperry

Ward 4

  • Amber Sherrill
  • Greg Strandberg

Ward 6

  • Nick Shontz
  • Sandra Vasecka
Missoula Current

Missoula Current

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