Rural Commissioner Returns to Office -- Thanks to 3 Votes

Jul 11, 2014

  

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Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee
Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee
Credit Judy Fahys / KUER News

Republicans dominate politics in eastern Utah’s conservative Uintah County. So, a vote recount and long wait for a winner in the county commission primary was unusual and tense. Mike McKee will keep his seat for a fourth term because there is no Democratic challenger. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports.

Incumbent County Commissioner Mike McKee sat in on the final tally of nearly 4,300 votes.

“This was a nail-biter: I won by three votes,” he said Wednesday.

“It was finalized Monday, when the last provisional votes were verified. So it was a very, very close vote. And, you know, that’s kind of hard on your nerves, you know, because, uh, it took a little bit of time.”

Included in the final recount were provisional ballots and absentee ballots that hadn’t come in on primary day nearly two weeks earlier.

McKee is a longtime Republican in a conservative county. But his challenger Bart Haslem, cast the three-term commissioner as a big spender who ignores government debt.

Vernal businessman Bart Haslem lost his bid to unseat Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee by three votes.
Vernal businessman Bart Haslem lost his bid to unseat Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee by three votes.
Credit Courtesy Bart Haslem Campaign

  Mike Wilkins, Uintah County Clerk-Auditor, has seen a few tight races in more than a decade of overseeing county elections. He recalls one three-way primary for school board that ended in a tie.

“What was interesting on that school board one,” he said, “is that the candidate running and her husband did not vote that day. They were busy uptown and didn’t make it there.

So what does that kind of close election say about the kind of world we’re living in now?

“It goes back to where I’ve said for years,” Wilkins added. “Every single vote counts.”

Haslem, a local businessman, did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

McKee, meanwhile, says he’ll continue his fight to protect Uintah County from federal overreach especially on environmental policies. Being outspoken has made him one of the state’s most visible and controversial local politicians.