Let the races begin.
Almost all of the Ravalli County incumbents filed for re-election on Thursday, which was the first day to officially file.
The only two countywide officeholders who decided not to seek another term were commissioners Ray Hawk and Doug Schallenberger. Hawk said he decided not to run for a second term because he’d have to go up against Commissioner Greg Chilcott due to the drop from five to three commissioners, which begins in 2019.
“Greg is a good friend of mine and I don’t feel comfortable running against him,” said Hawk, who is in the third year of his first four-year term. “He’s been in here for 16 years, with a lot of institutional knowledge. Greg’s done a good job, is a good leader and is a good fit for the job.”
Schallenberger didn’t return a call or email seeking comment. He would have ran against Commissioner Jeff Burrows.
Ravalli County voters decided in 2016 to return to a three-member commission, after a recommendation from a government review study commission. The five districts were changed to three, and while commissioners must reside in their district, all Ravalli County residents can vote for all of the commissioners.
“So you don’t really have a commissioner who represents a district, which is good because you’re not trying to make something specific for your district, but for the entire county,” Burrows told a group gathered in the commission chambers Thursday.
Once the commissioners are elected, they will draw lots, with the loser serving a two-year term. The remaining two will serve four-year terms, so elections will be somewhat staggered.
Regina Plettenberg — the Ravalli County election administrator — was the first to file, which is a tradition. Plettenberg also is the clerk and recorder, and superintendent of schools.
As of 1 p.m., the only contested race was for Justice Jim Bailey’s seat. He’s being challenged by Perry Johnson.
The others who filed to run include commissioners Chilcott, Burrows and Chris Hoffman; Sheriff Steve Holton; County Attorney Bill Fulbright; Treasurer/Assessor/Surveyor Dan Whitesitt; and Justice Jennifer Ray.
Thursday also was the first day for state legislators to file for election with the Secretary of State’s office.
As of 4 p.m., three people are vying for the House District 88 seat that was held by Republican Edward Greef, who can’t run again because of term limits. His wife, Sharon Greef, filed to run as a Republican; Margaret Gorski is the Democratic candidate; and Even Anderson is running as an Independent. All are from Stevensville.
In House District 87, Republican incumbent Nancy Ballance of Hamilton filed to retain her seat.
In House District 86, two Hamilton Republicans — Jacob DeVries and David Bedey — filed to replace Republican Ron Ehli, who can’t run again due to term limits.
In House District 85, incumbent Republican Theresa Manzella, has yet to file. She was traveling Thursday and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Republican Sen. Pat Connell says he plans on seeking a second term, but hasn’t had a chance to do so.
“I still have a few more goals to try to accomplish,” Connell said.
Candidate filing closes at 5 p.m. March 12. Plettenberg said she expects more people to enter the races closer to the filing deadline.
"The incumbents come in, letting people know who is going to run," she said. "We get a few new candidates, but normally just incumbents the first day. Then we may have a trickle of filings, and a few right at the end."