Newspaper article

As Stanek Waits for Official Results, Hutchinson Makes Plans to Take over Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office

Newspaper article

As Stanek Waits for Official Results, Hutchinson Makes Plans to Take over Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office

Article excerpt

Rich Stanek is not letting go of his job easily.

Following a campaign rife with allegations of illegal campaign activity, the race for Hennepin County sheriff — pitting longtime incumbent Stanek against political newcomer Dave “Hutch” Hutchinson — had a blockbuster finish Tuesday. With all votes counted, the finally tally showed Hutchinson as the winner by 2,337 votes: .44 percent. Afterward, Hutchinson claimed victory, though Stanek is holding on to the possibility that election officials made a mistake in the vote totals.

Even without a concession from Stanek, Hutchinson — currently a sergeant with the Metro Transit Police Department — is basking in what he considers a win. As potentially the first openly gay sheriff in the Midwest, he cites Tuesday’s results as part of a wide-sweeping push by the county’s progressive voters, particularly young voters and people of color, who want to shake up county leadership to better reflect what they see as the area’s values. Angela Conley’s election over incumbent Peter McLaughlin in a race for Hennepin County Board of Commissioners is another example of those shifting preferences among the county’s voters.

Support among diehard DFL activists aside, Hutchinson’s success Tuesday came as a surprise to many. Stanek’s time in the public eye goes back decades; he had ample campaign resources; and he commanded strong support in the suburbs in the primary election.

“With the current national politics at play, people in Minnesota just wanted something new and something more forward-thinking. You get people angry and upset, they’re going to come out and make change,” said Hutchinson in an interview Wednesday morning. “Sometimes money doesn’t buy a political seat anymore.”

Why Stanek hasn’t conceded

So why hasn’t Stanek given up his bid for the office yet? Every election night, officials organize ballots for all races by precincts, and then update the state’s Secretary of State in waves after polls close at 8 p.m. Even after those numbers are reported, though, state election officials spend days proofing their work before making them final — a period during which they say it is routine to “discover a number of small errors or typos, such as transposition of digits.”

It is within that window of work that the sheriff is hoping for an outcome in his favor. Under state law, candidates can ask election officials for a recount on the public’s dime if the difference between the winner and loser is .25 percent or less, according to Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms. That would mean a difference of about 1,010 votes in the sheriff’s election, which is roughly half the number of votes Hutchinson won by.

A candidate can request a recount at his or her own expense if the margin falls outside that “publicly funded” recount margin, according to Gelms.

Stanek’s campaign said it will not comment further on Tuesday’s election until the group in charge of certifying county results, the Hennepin County Canvassing Board, reviews the vote totals at a meeting next Tuesday morning. Every Minnesota county has a canvassing board of five members that includes the county auditor, members of the county board and other regional leaders.

“Yesterday’s election results were extremely close,” read a statement released by the Stanek campaign. “The information we have shows that this race is too close to call, and that the results are not yet official. …

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