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Granite County voters approve hospital mill levy, select new county commissioner

PHILIPSBURG – Granite County voters came out in large numbers Tuesday night, exercising their right to have a voice in our democracy.

The county saw an enormous turnout, with 1,814 of the 2,334 registered voters (77.7%) coming out to cast a ballot. Of those, more than 1,000 were absentee ballots.

Perhaps the biggest win of the night came for the Granite County Hospital District (GCHD) which had its mill levy approved by voters 955 to 833. The measure, which provides operational funding for the Granite County Medical Center for the next two years, passed easily in Precincts 1 and 2, 624-341. These precincts are essentially the southern end of the county encompassing Philipsburg, Maxville and Georgetown Lake. In the north, the levy failed by small enough margins that it still managed a passing grade. In Hall’s Precinct 9 the mill levy was voted down 188-162 and in Drummond’s Precinct 10 it fell 304-169.

Passing of the measure means that Granite County will benefit from a health care facility and programs through 2020, as well as approximately $2 million in employee revenue that is distributed through the area for goods and services.

“On behalf of the hospital district and all of our employees, I want to thank Granite County for supporting the hospital district mill levy,” said GCHD CEO Maria Stoppler. “Thank you for recognizing the value health care services bring to our community. We are dedicated to you and we will continue to focus our efforts on providing high quality care and the services you need most.

“I’d like to give a special thank you to the H&R thrift store, Jim Jenner and the Rotary for their generosity and hard work in support of the hospital district.”

Granite County also saw fit to choose a new commissioner to represent District 3 in Republican Chuck Hinkle. Hinkle received 822 votes and will replace incumbent Bart Bonney (I) who got 588. Write-In candidate Wayne Hale received just 290 votes.

“I knew that I had an uphill battle as a write-in candidate and thank all who believed in me and took the time to write me in,” Hale said in a statement emailed to the Flint Creek Courier Tuesday night. “Even in a loss, I impacted the people in the county showing a new energy and vision in tackling the county problems. I will continue to attend the Commission meetings, representing the people of the county and giving 'em Hale.”

Hinkle will not be seated on the Granite County Commission until January, according to County Administrative Assistant Mike Kahoe. That means that one of the first issues that Hinkle will have to deal with when he does see action on the commission will be the vote regarding the petition by residents of the Lower Rock Creek area to withdraw from the Granite County Hospital District.

For the county’s part in helping select the next House District 77 representative, local voters chose Republican Heather Blom with 968 votes despite the lack of any campaigning whatsoever. Democrat Mark Sweeney received 683 votes while Libertarian candidate Richard Motta got 192.

However, as of midnight and with four of 13 precincts fully reporting and nine of 13 reporting partially, Sweeny was handily leading Blom 2,804 to 1,686.

“I look forward to going to work in Helena as the representative of HD-77,” Sweeney told the Flint Creek Courier Tuesday night. “We have a lot of work ahead of us. I really appreciate the overwhelming support in Anaconda Deer Lodge County and I look forward to representing the entire district and concentrating on our common interests, what is good for our communities and the state.”

In other local races Judge Ray Dayton was given another term on the District 3 Court bench, being approved 1,341-291 while Debbie Fratzke was re-elected as the Justice Court Judge, 1,523-167.

In races that were uncontested, Sarah Graham was voted in as the Clerk & Recorder (1,569), Scott Dunkerson was re-elected as Granite County Sheriff/Coroner (1,687), Blaine Bradshaw was voted in as County Attorney (1,505) and Vicki Harding was tabbed as the County Treasurer/Superintendent of Schools (1,520).

Granite County spoke loud and clear on statewide candidates and ballot issues, starting with the clear choice of Greg Gianforte (R) for Montana’s At-Large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Incumbent Gianforte received 1,131 of county votes while Kathleen Williams (D) got 607.

In the race for State Senator, Granite County stayed red by selecting Matt Rosendale (R) over incumbent Jon Tester (D) 1,045-692.

On the four ballot initiatives, Granite County voters were in favor of the Mill Levy for the Montana University System (955 in favor, 801 against) and the Ballot Collection Measure (1,119 in favor, 581 against). They were decidedly against the Tobacco Tax (643 in favor, 1,149 against) and the Hardwick Mining Initiative (480 in favor, 1,311 against).

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