By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
Ellis County will have two new commissioners in January, but who those two individuals will be is still to be determined following Tuesday’s Republican primary.
The race for District 1 Ellis County commissioner between Michael Berges and Jim Pfeifer was separated by just nine votes (838-829) following Tuesday’s election.
In the race for District 3, Nathan Leiker leads Chris McGowne by 126 votes (758 to 632).
Ellis County Election Officer and Clerk Bobbi Dreiling said there were 136 provisional ballots that must be verified by staff before they can be accepted at the Aug. 15 election canvass.
Dreiling’s office has also received a handful of mail-in ballots that will be added to the totals.
With those ballots still yet to be counted, both races are extremely close with the race between Berges and Pfeifer still to close to call.
Berges said this week he really has not put a whole lot of thought into the final outcome with the canvass still days away.
“I always figured Jim was probably the favorite going into it, everybody seemed to know him,” Berges said. “Looking at past primaries, I figured I was going to need about 700 votes, probably more than that. So getting 800, I guess I’m thankful that that many people think I’m a quality candidate.”
Berges said he was happy about the large voter turnout as well.
“Either of us are fine candidates. I don’t think the county is necessarily better or worse with either one of us,” Berges said. “We had two quality candidates, and it was very close, and we both got over 800 votes.”
Pfeifer said it was an exciting race, and she’s looking forward to the final results.
“Either way it goes, it was exciting how many people came out and voted,” Pfeifer said. “There was lots of support on both sides, and whoever wins, wins. Ellis County will move forward.”
He added, “I think Ellis County will be in good hands either way.”
The First District represents the northwest part of Ellis County, including the City of Ellis and a portion of Hays. Current District 1 Commissioner Butch Schlyer chose not to seek re-election.
The race for the Third District is not as tight but still undecided.
The Third District includes the entire eastern edge of Ellis County and an area north of Hays.
Leiker said he was excited to see the great voter turnout and was surprised by the results.
“I appreciate all the support and the trust that the people have put in me so far, and I look forward to the results after the canvassing,” Leiker said.
Leiker praised McGowne and said it was a good race between the two.
“It was exciting and nerve racking at the same time. I didn’t know where things were going to fall out at,” Leiker said. “I’m happy to be on top at the end of the day, and I look forward to working for the county.”
Incumbent Joe Leroux, who was appointed to the position in January, finished fourth in the voting.
No Democrats filed for either commission seat, so the winners of both Republican primaries are considered the presumed nominees. Barring a successful challenge by an independent candidate in the November general election, the new commissioners will take their seats on the commission in January.
The election canvass will be at 8 a.m. Aug. 15 at the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main.