In a reversal on many elections in the area and the country this year, a Hill County official retained her seat despite a contentious three-way race.
While many incumbents lost in the wave of Republican and challenger elections, Hill County Attorney Gina Dahl retained her seat in a narrow victory in the Democratic primary. Dahl received 1,094 to the 962 received by challenger Lindsay Lorang, one of Dahl’s deputy attorneys, and 447 votes by private attorney Randy Randolph.
The race became contentious at some points, including Lorang, who later left the county office and now operates a private practice in Havre, accusing former Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson of lying in a letter supporting Dahl.
In the letter, Peterson, now a deputy U.S. Attorney in Missoula, wrote that Lorang did not have the legal requirements for experience at the time she filed and that she had not done contract work or advised departments for the county.
When contacted, Peterson said she may have overstated all three issues and that, technically, Lorang’s work in law school may have qualified her under a Supreme Court decision and that she may have done work on some contracts and some department advising. She stood by her statement that Dahl was better qualified, however.
Dahl also was criticized for her work representing the county during an inquest on the death of an inmate at the Hill County Detention Center, which is administered by her husband, James Dahl.
Critics said Gina Dahl should have let someone else examine and cross-examine the witnesses due to a conflict of interest. The state attorney general’s office and legal experts, however, said there was not a conflict of interest in her actions.
Dahl retained the seat after winning the primary, as no other parties fielded a candidate for the position.