Government

Democrat incumbents maintain seats on Linn County Board of Supervisors

Linn County Supervisor Stacy Walker watches results during an election night watch party at Chrome Horse in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Linn County Supervisor Stacy Walker watches results during an election night watch party at Chrome Horse in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Preliminary voting results for Tuesday’s midterm election showed Democrat incumbents Stacey Walker, Ben Rogers and Brent Oleson holding on to their seats on the soon-to-be three-member Linn County Board of Supervisors.

The three winners in the supervisors race expressed plans to move the county forward on matters of poverty and race, mental health and conservation.

In District 1, Walker, 30, who in 2016 became Linn County’s first black supervisor, once again beat James Houser, 64, who has spent a collective two decades on the board. Walker brought in more than 17,000 votes, while Houser received more than 9,000.

“Since I ran in 2016, I’ve talked a lot about how to make our community more equitable and more prosperous for all people,” Walker said. “I see this as the voters responding well to that message and responding well to all the things we’ve been able to accomplish in the last two years ... . I very much intend to put my foot on the gas and see how much more we can accomplish in a full term.”

In August, Houser had filed as a no-party candidate to face Walker again in the midterm.

In the District 2 race, Rogers, 38, who has been on the board for a decade, held kept his seat despite a challenge by Linn County Auditor Joel Miller, 63, who filed this August as a no-party candidate.

Rogers received more than 17,000 votes to Miller’s more than 14,000 votes.

Rogers said operating as a three-member board will provide new challenges, but he remains committed to pursuing a county access center for mental health and substance-abuse needs.

“We’re definitely putting the foot down on the accelerator,” Rogers said.

Miller has two years left on his four-year term as county auditor.

In District 3, which includes Marion and most of the county’s rural precincts, Democrat Oleson, 48, beat Republican John Harris, 65, with more than 19,000 votes to about 16,000.

Harris has spent the past eight years on the board, while Oleson has been supervisor since 2008.

Oleson said his Tuesday victory was bittersweet, as he considers fellow supervisor and challenger Harris a good friend.

Oleson said the biggest challenge moving forward is that he will be the sole rural representative on the board now that it has been reduced to three members.

“Rural Linn County is the real loser tonight, no matter who won this race,” Oleson said. “I’m going to be keenly aware of anything that effects the non-metro area.”

He said he plans to remain focused on matters of conservation countywide.

Harris said the county now will focus on proceeding as a three-member board, adding that none of the five incumbents on the ballot were looking forward to today’s vote.

As for Harris, he also said he expects to remain involved in the community.

“I’ll appear again in some form of public service,” he said.

Incumbent County Treasurer Sharon Gonzalez, 58, held on to her seat despite a challenge by former Treasurer’s Office employee Denise Sotello Westerhoff, 60. Gonzalez received more than 62,000 votes to Sotello Westerhoff’s roughly 35,000 votes.

County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden and Recorder Joan McCalmant, both Democrats, ran unopposed.

Votes are unofficial until next week’s canvas.

To maintain staggered terms on the board, Walker and Rogers will serve a four-year term, while Oleson’s seat will be up for a vote in two years.

After that, District 3 also will have four-year terms.

Voters in 2016 decided to reduce the board from five members to three, citing concerns about supervisor salaries when they crossed the six-figure threshold. Supervisors now earn about $104,000 a year.

The winners of Tuesday’s vote will start their new terms in January.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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