Wright County Board incumbents Rose Thelen and Pat Sawatzke both survived a primary against two challengers Aug. 14 to advance to the general ballot against each other Nov. 6.
Based on unofficial election results from this week, a victor in the race between Thelen and Sawatzke would be the county’s only returning commissioner when the new term begins next January. Of 1,518 votes cast in their primary Tuesday, Thelen received 597 votes (39.3 percent) to 563 for Sawatzke (37.1 percent).
A redistricting plan after the 2010 census put the two county residents and commissioners both into one of the county’s five districts for this election season.
Thelen, of Clearwater Township, also represents the city of Clearwater plus Maple Lake and Silver Creek townships in her current District 1. Parts of her current district that will not be in her new district, regardless if she wins election, include the city of Annandale, two precincts in Buffalo, and Chatham and Corinna townships.
Sawatzke, of Monticello, also represents Monticello Township, the city of Otsego and part of Dayton in his current District 2, but the new District 2 – where he is battling Thelen this fall – will lose Dayton and Otsego while gaining the Clearwater, Maple Lake and Silver Creek communities.
The incumbents’ challengers were Barry A. Kukowski, of Clearwater Township, who finished with 268 votes (17.65 percent), and Joseph Doyle, of Monticello Township, who totaled 90 votes (5.9 percent). Though Kukowski finished nearly 300 votes behind Sawatzke at the polls, returns from the first six of eight district precincts Tuesday night showed him only 40 votes behind Sawatzke (before Monticello city votes were reported).
Among other county primaries, candidates Christine Husom and Fred Naaktgeboren –according to unofficial results – are advancing to the general ballot in the new District 1 for all residents in Annandale and Buffalo plus some townships. Mary Wetter and Mike Potter finished barely ahead of third-place finisher Michael Beyer in the new District 4, which will include Albertville, Rockford and some precincts of Hanover and St. Michael.
A third county incumbent running this week, Richard “Dick” Mattson, finished third among eight candidates in the new District 5, which includes Cokato, Delano, Howard Lake, Montrose and Waverly. Candidates Charlie Borrell and Leonard Wozniak finished with more votes there.
Both Thelen and Sawatzke agree there should be one voice of continuity on the county board in 2013, but of course they differ on who that should be.
“I’m glad Pat’s in there, too,” Thelen said of the pair of incumbents advancing to November. “I’d like to bring the issues out in this race. I hope there will be opportunities for us to bring up the myriad issues involved in the county. That’s what I’d be looking for, for us to get at the real stuff, not just ideology, let’s say.”
“I’m looking forward to having that discussion to tell voters what differences there are between Rose and I, and I think there are clear differences,” said Sawatzke. “I hope to lead this new board and get it started in the right direction.”
Kukowski was positive in speaking of his experience. “I was looking to see if I could have an impact in reducing our taxes,” he said. “I just think our budget’s been growing, and it was my goal to see if I could shrink it.
“It’s been a fun race. I learned a lot, and I enjoyed it. I had a good time,” Kukowski added. “I jumped into it with both feet and went after it. I’d do it again. There are a lot of nice people out there. I look forward to meeting them again next time around.”
By Paul Rignell