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Sheriff Roger Thompson's arraignment

Suspended Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson pleaded not guilty to charges of tampering with evidence, perjury and official misconduct in Helena District Court last month.

Paul Craft defeated incumbent Beaverhead County Sheriff Frank Kluesner in Tuesday night’s election, and Phil Fortner waged a successful write-in campaign to knock off Sheriff Roger Thompson in Madison County.

Craft, the police chief in Dillon, got 2,789 votes, or 60 percent, to 1,806 votes for Kluesner, or 39 percent, according to full, unofficial returns listed Wednesday morning. Both candidates ran as independents.

Craft served as Dillon's police chief from 2009 to 2016.

"I think the voters knew what I could do from my previous job," said Craft Wednesday morning. "They put a lot of faith in that and I'm quite proud of that."

Craft said his goals for his upcoming role include making the sheriff's office more "user friendly," reducing turnover in the department, and adhering to the standard of good law enforcement. 

In Madison county Fortner did what few candidates manage to do at any level in any state — win a write-in campaign. And he did it handily.

He got 2,789 write-in votes, or 63 percent, to 1,602 votes for Thompson, or 37 percent, election officials said Wednesday morning.

Fortner has served as a deputy sheriff in Madison County since 1997, a deputy coroner since 2008 and has been undersheriff the past four years.

Fortner's opponent Sheriff Thompson was charged in September with tampering with evidence, perjury and official misconduct stemming from a controlled drug buy. He has pleaded not guilty and his was the only name on the ballot for sheriff in Madison County.

County commissioners suspended Thompson with pay for three months pending resolution of the case. In October, Thompson pleaded not guilty to the charges, telling commissioners that he prided himself on his character and integrity.

In Beaverhead County, Kluesner came under fire this summer after he fired Beaverhead Deputy Mike Miles for insubordination.

Miles had made a financial contribution to the Craft campaign this spring. According to previous news stories, Miles believed his firing was retaliation for that campaign donation. Beaverhead County commissioners reinstated Miles in June, stating in a letter to Kluesner that the deputy’s dismissal was “unfounded.”

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Meanwhile, in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, incumbent Justice of the Peace Larry Pahut won a re-election bid over Joe Ungaretti, a county code enforcement officer. Pahut got 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Ungaretti.

In the District 5 commissioner race in that county, Mike Huotte won with 55 percent of the vote over James Whealon, according to unofficial returns. In District 4, Charlie McCurdy edged out Paul Smith, 52 percent to 47 percent.

In Jefferson County, incumbent District 3 Commissioner Bob Mullen captured 70 percent of the vote, easily defeating David Murray, a dispatcher for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Dean Hildebrand won justice of the peace in Jefferson County, getting 52 percent to 47 percent for Steve Andersen.

In Powell County, Republican Lewis Cozby coasted to victory over Cindy Noland in the race for superintendent of schools. Melissa Gallagher easily defeated Paul O. Bean for justice of the peace with 77 percent of the vote. 

In another contested race in Madison County, incumbent District 2 Commissioner Ronald Nye won another term, defeating Randy Lowder 63 percent to 37 percent.

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