Ray Shaw bested two-term incumbent Bob Wagner and challenger Robert Kennedy in the House District 71 primary race last Tuesday.
Now Shaw is turning his sights on the November general election where he will face Independent Kim Miller from Virginia City.
“I think this next round is not going to be any easier than the first,” Shaw said.
The race between Shaw and Wagner was tight – Shaw received 1,040 votes and Wagner received 991. Kennedy was a distant third with 232 votes.
Wagner was seeking his third term as representative.
House District 71 is made up of 11 precincts, eight in Madison County and three in and around Whitehall.
Wagner was the top vote getter in seven precincts including both Ennis Rural and Ennis Town and all three Whitehall precincts. In Ennis Rural, Wagner received 229 votes to Shaw’s 204. In Ennis Town, Wagner received 53 votes to Shaw’s 50.
However, it seems that Shaw was able to win the primary by keeping the vote close in precincts Wagner won and then really out pacing him in precincts in the Ruby Valley.
Shaw won all four Ruby Valley precincts by wide margins. In the four Ruby Valley precincts, including Virginia City, Shaw received 529 votes to Wagner’s 237.
Shaw also credits his victory to efforts he made at meeting with voters in Whitehall. He didn’t win any precincts there, but he felt like he made a good showing.
“I spent a lot of time and made a lot of friends and had people helping in Whitehall,” Shaw said. “I had to have every last vote I could get down there. I knocked on a lot of doors and there’s still a lot of people I want to talk to.”
For Wagner, the loss illustrates the problem with open elections. In Montana, voters don’t register by party and so during primary elections voters can choose whether to vote on the Republican or Democratic ballots.
“I know there will be a lot of people who are disappointed in the process of what happened,” Wagner said. “This is a process in which the people of Montana have apparently endorsed.”
Wagner did continue to take issue with his critics who said he didn’t represent local issues.
“They say I wish Bob Wagner would have focused on the issues, they don’t realize we vote on every single bill that comes before us so every local issue was addressed,” he said.
“These same people are the ones that criticize but have never called Bob Wagner.”
Still, even though Wagner lost the primary election, he will continue to serve as HD 71 representative until the end of the year.
Wagner is meeting with his supporters next week and plans to release information about the primary election that illustrates the problem with the open election process, particularly as it relates to the most recent primary.
In other election news, the Twin Bridges Mosquito Levy passed 77-44. This means more than $9,600 for mosquito control in Twin Bridges.