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Johnson auditor loses, Linn's wins in primary

Despite a heated race turnout was relatively low

Travis Weipert
Travis Weipert
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Longtime Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett says he will surrender his seat following a decisive loss Tuesday in the Democratic primary.

Slockett, of Iowa City, fell to challenger Travis Weipert, a member of the Tiffin City Council and an accountant in Cedar Rapids, following reports this spring of questionable practices at work and a reprimand last week from the Iowa Ethics Campaign and Disclosure Board.

At 65, he has served as Johnson County auditor and elections commissioner since 1977. Before this year, he had been challenged only three times in a primary election since he was first elected, and he more than doubled the votes of his competitor each time.

"I am just so honored to have been able to serve the people of Johnson County for all these years," Slockett said shortly after declaring his challenger the winner. "I appreciate their past support and of course I have special feelings for the people who supported me in this campaign and I'll always remember it, and I also respect the decision of the voters and appreciate what they thought was best."

Because no other parties have produced candidates, Weipert’s victory Tuesday appears to give him a clear path to victory in November, though another candidate could enter the race this summer or fall. Slockett said he does not plan to run as an independent, but will retire once his term ends.

As of 10:25 p.m., the results from several precincts had not yet been reported by the Auditor's Office but Slockett had conceded that he would lose. Weipert, 31, gathered 62 percent of the vote with 1,622 ballots cast to Slockett's 38 percent, or 1,002 votes. He said he felt the hard work of his campaign committee, paired with some of the bad press surrounding Slockett, likely contributed to his success.

"We're obviously excited," Weipert said Tuesday evening. "We've put in a tremendous amount of work with the help of everyone supporting me so we're excited with the results."

Slockett declined to comment on whether the recent reprimand, and accusations he mistreated his staff, contributed to his loss.

"I'm looking forward to a new chapter in my life and the chance of being able to do whatever I want to do for a change and that's as far as my thinking goes," Slockett said, adding he has no other plans to run for office. "I've already had a couple of offers for employment what what I'm looking for now, and what I'm looking forward to is some time to do whatever I want to do."

He had also lost the support of some prominent area Democrats, with the county recorder, treasurer, two supervisors and two state representatives serving on Weipert’s campaign committee. State Sen. Bob Dvorsky is Weipert’s campaign chair.

Despite a heated race – laced with Slockett’s reprimand and accusations he mistreated employees in recent months – turnout was on a relatively low clear summer day. As of the most recent update on Tuesday night, 5,183 votes were cast for a turnout of 6.44 percent.

Weipert said one of his goals, if elected in November, would be to improve the working environment in the auditor's office.

"We're going to come up with ways and ideas to improve the office," Weipert said. "I want them to know they're going to be a part of this office and we're going to look at this office and see what we can do to improve it and make it better for Johnson County."

Results are unofficial until the canvass of votes by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors next week.

Slockett said Tuesday he had already congratulated Weipert, and challenged him to beat his record turnout election of third-highest turnout in the state and turnout in 2008, adding he planned to cooperate with him and make Weipert's transition smooth should he win in November. Weipert wished Slockett luck.

"It was a good race, it was hard fought and I wish Tom the best of luck," Weipert said.

Linn County

In Linn County, Miller said he was “overjoyed” at his lopsided victory in the primary.

Miller easily defeated former county Supervisor Jim Houser and Deputy County Treasurer Brian Gradoville, drawing 3,063 votes to Houser’s 1,485 and Gradoville’s 717.

“I think it’s an affirmation that I’m doing what people expect me to do, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing,” Miller said minutes after the final precincts reported.

Miller’s win came a week after his court case against the county supervisors was heard in District Court. He filed suit in 2011 after the supervisors blocked his effort to appoint a deputy auditor to conduct internal audits of other county departments’ accounts. The supervisors later filed a countersuit arguing state law doesn’t give county auditors that authority, and both cases were combined.

Gradoville and Houser hoped to make an issue of Miller’s at-times-contentious relationship with the supervisors and other county officials, but nearly 60 percent of Democrats voting apparently weren’t bothered.

“I was out and about all day and I had people coming up to me being very complementary and supportive, so I was hopeful that was going to be the outcome,” said Miller, 56, of Robins. “I certainly hoped for as wide a margin as possible, and it looks like that’s what the voters did.”

“I didn’t think it would be that type of margin,” admitted Gradoville, of southeast Cedar Rapids. “I gave my effort and did what I needed to do, and the person who won, won.”“I thought it would have been a lot tighter,” said Houser, of southwest Cedar Rapids. “A three-way race complicated things — you’re splitting your support, you’re splitting your resources for funds. It’s just one of them things, you just move on.”

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