Last minute filings guarantee Democrats a council majority
Havre gets replay of 2009 mayor race
June 28, 2013
A rush of candidate filings that some expected last-minute on the last day to file in the Havre city elections didn’t happen, with only two contested elections — one a rematch of the 2009 mayoral election — and the Democrats guaranteed to regain a majority on the Havre City Council.
Both incumbent Mayor Tim Solomon, a Democrat, and former Republican Mayor Bob Rice filed in the race for Havre’s top elected official, while Democrats filled the slots in the races for the five open City Council positions.
The only contested City Council race is in Ward 4, where former Havre Daily News managing editor Karen Datko, secretary of the Hill County Democratic Party, filed shortly after 11 a.m.
A couple of hours later, a newcomer to local politics, Matt Boucher, filed as a Republican, creating a primary race against fellow Republican John R. “Bob” Waldron, who filed early in May.
A last-minute rush of filings never happened. About 3 p.m., Rice filed for the mayor race, then about 4 p.m. Terry Lilletvedt, a newcomer to filing as a political candidate, entered the race for the Council Seat in Ward 1 as a Democrat.
Incumbent Democrat Gerry Veis did not file for re-election in the Ward 1 race.
Solomon filed for re-election shortly afterward, followed by former City Council Chair Allen “Woody” Woodwick.
Woodwick, a Democrat, lost his chance to run for his own seat when redistricting moved him from Ward 4 to Ward 3. He filed as the sole candidate for the two-year position to fill out the term of Republican Rick Dow, who resigned to move to Minnesota.
The man appointed to finish the year in Dow’s position, Democrat Jay Pyette, filed earlier this month in the race for the four-year term now held by Republican Bob Kaftan, who is not running for re-election.
The last unopposed council race has incumbent Democrat Janet Trethewey running for re-election to her seat in Ward 2.
In the non-partisan race for Havre city judge, Hill County Justice Court clerk and judge pro tempore Virginia Seigel is the sole candidate. Incumbent Margaret Hencz announced she will not run for re-election.
Republicans falter in move on city government
With the filings completed by Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline, it guarantees the Democrats at least five, possibly six, seats on the City Council — a turnaround from the 4-4 split at the start of the year.
Republicans had been gaining steam in city government since 2001, when Rice won his first term as Havre mayor.
After that race, though, the Democrats retained a 7-1 majority on the council.
After the 2003 race, the ratio remained 7-1 for the Democrats.
In 2005, Havre voters re-elected Rice and the Republicans picked up a second seat on the council.
After the 2007 election, Republicans picked up a third seat when Andrew Brekke, now chair of the council, won his race in Ward 4.
Then, in 2009, Solomon defeated Rice in his bid for a third consecutive term as mayor, while the Democrats regained a seat on the city council — one year after Republican Wendy Warburton surprised many by taking what had been a solidly Democratic slot in the state House of Representatives, formerly held by Democrats John Musgrove and, before him, legendary Rep. Ray Peck.
But in 2011 — one year after an unprecedented Republican sweep of contested state elections in solidly blue Blaine and Hill counties and Democrats losing in the Blaine and Hill county commissioner elections— the GOP came back, with Rick Dow and John Barrows joining fellow Republicans Brekke and Kaftan on the council.
The Democrats made some headway on regaining some ground on the state level last year, with long-time Sen. Greg Jergeson winning back one of the legislative seats for the Democrats, 12 years after he had termed out of that body. Warburton and Rep. Kris Hansen kept two of the seats for the GOP.
But the Republican City Council majority began to unravel before the election season, when Dow announced his resignation. He moved to Minnesota, where his wife, Dr. Margaret Dow, took a job at the Mayo Clinic.
The council appointed Pyette, Havre High School English teacher and founder of the Montana Actors’ Theatre, to that position.
With the filings by deadline Thursday, the Republicans are only guaranteed two seats — Brekke and Barrows — with the potential to retain a third depending on the results of the Ward 4 race.
A rematch of 2009
With the filings of the mayoral race, it goes back to the start of the Republican strength-gains in Havre city government.
In 2001, Rice defeated Democrat Mike Shortell, recently retired from his lengthy tenure as Havre chief of police, with a surprising 56 percent of the vote in the traditionally Democratic city.
In 2005, he defeated his challenger, Democratic City Council member Pam Hillery, by an even wider margin. Rice won in all five wards with the initial tally of votes in his favor 1,523 to 903, more than 62 percent of the votes.
But in 2009, retired long-time Hill County Sheriff Tim Solomon came in with a resounding victory. Solomon took 1,732 votes to Rice’s 1,066, also winning strongly in all four wards — and with more than 62 percent of the votes.