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Party’s progress

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Having one Democratic candidate in a county where nine Republicans are running for four offices may sound like a recipe for failure to some, but to Flathead County Democratic Party chairman John de Neeve, it’s progress.

“We’re actually ahead of two years ago,” he says.

Last election cycle, county Democrats had no candidate for commissioner until March 23, the last day that candidates could file.

This year, former Flathead County Administrator Don Avery filed as a Democratic candidate Feb. 3.

Avery says he almost missed the filing date. Having moved from Washington four years ago, Avery was used to that state’s filing period, which runs from March through July. Avery says he didn’t worry himself about filing, as he was planning temporary housing facilities for FEMA in New Orleans.

“I thought I had plenty of time,” he says.

Then his wife saw the actual filing dates in a news story, and Avery promptly filed.

With Avery on board, and two other county residents talking to de Neeve about their plans to run, the party chairman is looking forward to the possibility of a Democratic primary for county commissioner. That hasn’t happened in Flathead County since 2002, when two candidates ran.

Meanwhile, Flathead County Republicans have a slate of six candidates for county commissioner. County Republican Party chairman Bob Keenan says it’s too early to talk party politics.

According to de Neeve, “[County elections] have been pretty much dominated by the Republicans for the last 15 years.”

But in 2004, Democrat Joe Brenneman narrowly defeated Republican Denise Cofer for the county commissioner’s seat. That victory, says de Neeve, proved that Democrats can win in the Flathead.

Avery says his decision to run wasn’t based on Joe Brenneman’s victory, or even Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s for that matter. Rather, it’s something he’s wanted to do since he moved here.

Whatever the reasons, de Neeve says he’s just glad to have a candidate.

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