Missoula City Council: Early returns show conservative challengers in tight races

Final returns in Tuesday’s municipal election are expected by 10:30 p.m. (Renata Birkenbuel/Missoula Current)

Missoula voters appear to want some change in the makeup of the City Council, at least according to early returns from Tuesday’s municipal election.

Six of the 12 City Council seats are on the line, with incumbents seeking another term in three wards and a full slate of newcomers in the other three.

Early returns showed incumbents Heidi West and Gwen Jones with comfortable leads in wards 1 and 3. But Ward 2 Councilwoman Mirtha Becerra appeared to be in a tight race, leading conservative challenger Brent Sperry 780 votes to 617.

Amber Sherrill had a sizable lead over conservative Alan Ault in Ward 4, but in wards 5 and 6 conservatives recruited by Councilman Jesse Ramos were in the lead – John Contos in Ward 5 and Sandra Vasecka in Ward 6.

This year’s election was more contentious than in years past. It attracted the spending of a new partisan political action committee created to place conservative candidates on the City Council.

The non-partisan Montana Conservation Voters also backed a selection of left-leaning candidates based on their support for public lands and open space.

As of 8:01 p.m., with an unknown number of ballots yet to be counted, these are the preliminary numbers. Watch Missoula Current for continued updates throughout the evening.

Ward 1

Amber Shaffer  447

Heidi West  1,016

Ward 2

Mirtha Becerra   780

Brent Sperry   617

Ward 3

Gwen Jones   1,289

Drew Iverson   278

Ward 4

Alan Ault   778

Amber Sherrill   1,304

Ward 5

John Contos   1,285

Alex Fregerio   1,079

Ward 6

Nick Shontz    319

Sandra Vasecka   424