Abell likely wins county commissioner race

Daily Inter Lake | November 4, 2020 6:15 AM

Republican Brad Abell appears to have handily defeated Democrat Kristen Larson in a race for the District 1 seat on the Flathead County Commission.

Abell was leading Larson with nearly two-thirds of 36,422 ballots cast in the race Tuesday night, according to early vote counts from the Flathead County Election Department.

The three-member commission has both legislative and executive authority over the entire county and will remain solidly red if Abell joins fellow Republican commissioners Pam Holmquist and Randy Brodehl.

Abell, a 61-year-old heavy-equipment operator for Weyerhaeuser who lives near Columbia Falls, appeared to have won the District 1 seat representing the northern part of the county. During his campaign, he cited his blue-collar background and said he would prioritize zoning and affordable housing development as the county's population continues to grow.

He is poised to replace Republican Phil Mitchell, who did not run for re-election after one six-year term.

"I love it," Abell said after the election results were released Tuesday night. "I put a lot of work into this. I put in probably 1,000 hours of campaigning and probably 10,000 miles on my truck."

He said his first order of business as a commissioner will be "just to get in and learn the job."

"I think the commission has done a pretty good job, and I just want to make sure we maintain that," he said.

Larson, who with her husband owns the Glacier Lanes bowling alley in Columbia Falls, also ran in part on land-use issues. In 2019, she helped fellow Creston-area landowners oppose a proposed water bottling plant. As a commissioner she said she would push for separation between industrial and residential zones in the county.

Larson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment after the election results were released Tuesday night.

Reporter Chad Sokol can be reached at 758-4434 or csokol@dailyinterlake.com