Ankeny edges Felten by 11 votes to win special election

Published 9:41 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mike Ankeny won a tight race with Ron Felten to become the new commissioner for the 5th District of the Mower County Board of Commissioners.

Ankeny won with 267 votes, narrowly beating Felten’s 256 votes.

“I knew it would be close,” Ankeny said,” but I’m glad it turned out the way it did.”

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A total of 523 people voted, which is only about 13 percent of the registered 4,000 voters in the district.

Ankeny and Felten split the two voter precincts. Felten won Southgate Elementary School with 148 votes to Ankeny’s 137. However, Ankeny won Austin High School by a wider margin with 130 votes compared to 108 votes for Felten.

While an exact date for Ankeny to be sworn in hasn’t been set, Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh said the county board meeting on Feb. 23 is one possible date.

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson previously said the winning candidate would face a unique and difficult time in county government because of the struggling economy and budget issues.

“They’ll have a heck of a job,” Oscarson said. “This is probably the most difficult time in county government I’ve ever seen because of the budget and the economy.”

However, Ankeny said he’s prepared for the difficult environment: “I knew that coming into it, and I guess I’m up for the challenge,” he said.

Ankeny has attended recent county board meetings, and he said that’s helped him prepare. At the same time, he said he’s only seen a part of the job through the meetings, and he’s looking forward to starting.

“I’ll probably be asking a lot of questions just to try to get up to speed on different issues,” Ankeny said.

Like Ankeny, Felten said he knew the race would be close. While he was disappointed with the results, Felten wished Ankeny the best in his new role.

“I certainly wish Mike well,” Felten said. “He’s a good guy, and I’m sure he’ll do a fine job.”

Felten will continue to serve on the Austin Utilities Board. He hasn’t decided if he’ll run again for the 5th District county board seat in the November election.

“It’s a lot of work,” Felten said. “I knew the job would be a lot of work. This was a bit of an eye opener, how much time and effort it took to campaign. It’s been a good experience.”

Groh said he hoped the election would attract more than 600 votes to beat the 5th District’s special election on March 2, 2001, when 599 people voted. However, turnout fell short with 523 voters. About 13 percent of the more than 4,000 registered voters in the district participated in the special election. About 9 percent participated in the special primary last moth.

The special election Jan. 20 attracted more voters with 382 compared to 340 during the special primary Feb. 27, 2001.

As of 1:10 p.m., about 104 people had voted at Southgate Elementary School out of about 1,900 people registered to vote at Southgate

According to election judge Kristine Allas, a surge of voters around dinner time pushed the total number of voters at Southgate to 285.

Out of about 2,100 voters registered to vote at the high school, 238 people voted. About 108 people had voted at Austin High School as of 1:55 p.m.

Special elections typically have low voter turnout compared to regular elections, which often attract close to 70 percent of registered voters, said Groh. Fewer people often vote in the special elections because it’s an off season and because there was only one item on the ballot, Groh said.