Breitbach ekes out win by two votes in special election
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of a story that will appear in the March 3 Tribune. That story did not take into account a change in state law that now requires all absentee ballots be in an auditor’s office by 8 p.m. on election day.
By Bob Fenske
In a special election that could serve as a civics lesson, voters in Chickasaw County’s District 1 gave the lead to the man who has served the last month as their representative on the Board of Supervisors.
However, if ever one wants to know why election officials call results “unofficial” until they are canvassed, Tuesday’s vote would be exhibit No. 1.
Results released Tuesday night showed that Democrat Steve Breitbach received 145 votes, two more than Republican Mike Winter, and in past elections, that would have meant that some “outstanding ballots” — those that were mailed to voters who requested them but not returned by Tuesday — could have still been counted if they had been postmarked no later than this past Monday’s deadline and received before the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors canvassed the election.
“I did honestly forget about the change in that part of the election law,” Chickasaw County Auditor Stephanie Mashek said Wednesday morning. “Basically, the law now is that all absentee ballots must be in our hands by 8 p.m. on election day. … So if we get ballots by mail later this week, we can’t count them because they had to be in our office by Tuesday night.”
Mashek said that her office will “audit” the election later this week and that the Board of Supervisors will canvas the election at 1:30 p.m. this coming Monday.
Breitbach received 38 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s election while Winter garnered 37.4 percent of the votes. Former Supervisor David Tilkes, who ran as a no-party candidate, was a distant third with 66 votes, or 17.3 percent. Two other no-party candidates — Mark Knoll and Larry Laures — finished far back in the voting as Knoll got 17 votes while Laures had 11.
If the unofficial election results hold, that means Breitbach will keep the seat he has held since late January.
After former Supervisor Rick Holthaus passed away on Jan. 2, a committee consisting of three county office holders — Mashek, Treasurer Sue Breitbach and Recorder Shirley Troyna — announced their intention to appoint a replacement, but a group of residents in District 1, which covers much of the northern part of the county and includes the cities of Alta Vista, Ionia and North Washington, filed a petition for a special election.
The committee went ahead and appointed Breitbach to the seat in late January and he has served on the Board of Supervisors since then. His appointment will last only through the canvas of the special election, and the winner of Tuesday’s contest, will serve the remainder of the term that Holthaus won during the 2020 election. That term runs through Dec. 31, 2024.