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Cole, Essmann advance in Billings mayoral race - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Cole, Essmann advance in Billings mayoral race

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BILLINGS - Bill Cole and Jeff Essmann are headed for a matchup to become Billings' next mayor in the November general election.

Voters selected the two candidates from a pool of six during Tuesday's primary election. 

Cole, an attorney and current chairman of the Billings Chamber of Commerce board of directors and former president of the Yellowstone County Planning Board, picked up 7,826 votes, or 32.5 percent.

Essmann, a Republican state legislator, picked up 6,502 votes, or 27 percent.

Both served on the planning board together years ago and both agree the top issue facing Billings is the future of the city's workforce.

"Top of the list, in order to grow our community we need young people, ages 25 to 40," said Cole. "We've got thirty 32,000 jobs to fill in the next 10 years. The only way we can do that is if we build an exciting city that will attract young people. There's ways to do that and we need to get on it."

"I think our work force development issues are probably the most critical," said Essmann. "I was happy that the Montana Chamber of Commerce recognized me with my six consecutive Champions of Business award for supporting their pro-jobs agenda in the Montana Legislature. That's the kind of leadership I'd like to bring to the city of Billings."

Architect Randy Hafer finished third with 4,5454. Businesswoman Danielle Egnew and City Councilwoman Angela Cimmino were next in the unofficial final results, at 2,032 and 1,999 votes 

Other candidates were Danny Sandefur and Paul Bledsoe.

Voters also selected the top two candidates to advance in five Billings City Council races. Billings Municipal Court Judge Sheila Kolar was unopposed on the ballot.

Nearly 24,000 ballots had been returned by 5 p.m., and Yellowstone County Election Administrator Bret Rutherford said he expected another several hundred to be returned by the 8 p.m. deadline.

Officials began counting ballots at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Of the 55,840 registered voters in Billings, 24,228 votes were cast. The 43.39 percent turnout was good for an off-year, municipal election, Rutherford said.

"I'm really impressed with the turnout. Mail ballot has a lot to do with that. And we've had a lot of money spent too, which is very unusual for a municipal primary," said Rutherford. "I think all the billboards and yard signs are really reminding people to turn their ballot in."

Rutherford expects roughly 28,000 votes in city races for the general election in November.

The ballot will include a public safety levy for the Yellowstone County court system, giving a chance for all county voters a chance to weigh in.

The unofficial final results from the Billings primary: (* indicates will advance to general election)

BILLINGS MAYOR

          VOTE FOR  1

           PAUL BLEDSOE  - 309

           ANGELA CIMMINO - 1,999

           *BILL COLE - 7,826

           DANIELLE EGNEW - 2,032

           *JEFF ESSMANN - 6,502

           RANDY HAFER - 4,545

           DANNY SANDEFUR - 754

           WRITE-IN - 79

          BILLINGS MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGE

          VOTE FOR  1

           SHEILA R. KOLAR - 18,987

           WRITE-IN - 473

          BILLINGS CITY COUNCIL WARD 1

          VOTE FOR  1

           JOSHUA KOSTELECKY - 364

           *CHARLIE SMILLIE - 918

           *MIKE YAKAWICH - 1,724

           WRITE-IN - 24

          BILLINGS CITY COUNCIL WARD 2

          VOTE FOR  1

           *FRANK EWALT - 1,891

           *ROGER M. GRAVGAARD - 1,430

           TAJIN J. PEREZ - 620

           WRITE-IN - 34

          BILLINGS CITY COUNCIL WARD 3

          VOTE FOR  1

           *NADJA BROWN - 1,495

           *DENISE JOY - 1,041

           MICHAEL A. LARSON - 826

           RUSSELL ROWLAND - 198

           TYLER STARKWEATHER - 657

           WRITE-IN - 29

          BILLINGS CITY COUNCIL WARD 4

          VOTE FOR  1

           *GEORGE BLACKARD  - 2,435

           RICK MCINTYRE - 1,245

           *PENNY RONNING -  2,489

           WRITE-IN - 45

          BILLINGS CITY COUNCIL WARD 5

          VOTE FOR  1

           *D. SHAUN BROWN -1,378

           ALEXANDER L. CLARK - 765

           RHONDA WHITEMAN - 971

           *DENNIS ULVESTAD  - 1,622

           WRITE-IN - 29

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