Democratic-endorsed candidates and incumbents were ahead in early returns from Tuesday’s Missoula City Council primary election.
Incumbent Ward 1 Councilwoman Heidi West led two challengers with 803 votes, or 53 percent.
Incumbent Ward 3 Councilwoman Gwen Jones had an even larger advantage over her two challengers, posting 694 votes, or 69.5 percent of the total.
And in Ward 4, where incumbent John DiBari chose not to run for reelection, newcomer Amber Sherrill had 1,032 votes (or 59.3 percent) to lead her two opponents. Sherrill was endorsed in that race by Missoula Democrats.
Tuesday’s voting was limited to three City Council wards where the races featured at least three candidates. In each race, the primary will cut the number of contenders to two heading into November’s general election.
Three other wards already have just two candidates in their general election fields.
Here are the early vote returns, released just after 8 p.m. by Missoula County election officials. They reflect absentee ballots counted by the time polls closed.
Still to come are ballots cast at three polling places open on Tuesday and late-arriving absentee ballots.
The early results:
Ward 1:Amber Shaffer, 432 votes, 28.5 percent; Elizabeth Weaver 268, 17.7 percent; Heidi West, 803 votes, 53 percent.
Ward 3: Dakota Hileman, 119 votes, 11.9 percent; Drew Iverson, 177 votes, 17.7 percent; Gwen Jones, 694 votes, 69.5 percent.
Ward 4: Alan Ault, 552 votes, 31.7 percent; Amber Sherrill, 1,032 votes, 59.3 percent; Greg Strandberg, 152, 8.7 percent.
Missoula City Council races are non-partisan, but this year featured slates of candidates endorsed by the local Republican and Democratic parties. Missoula County Republican leaders, in fact, recruited a full complement of candidates to run in each council race. None of those candidates lead Tuesday night’s early returns, although several had a chance of making it into the two-person field that will continue on to November’s voting.
Watch Missoula Current for updated returns as they are available throughout the evening.