After a tight race where the lead changed hands during the long night, incumbent Doug Houge, Crow Wing County District 5 commissioner, beat challenger Kris Hasskamp.
“I expected a close race,” Houge said Wednesday. The incumbent wasn’t sure of the outcome until about 1:30 a.m. “It was very nerve wracking.”
He won by 229 votes, besting Hasskamp 51.57 percent to 47.79 percent. Hasskamp, Crosby, won more precincts with 11 to Houge’s 10, but the incumbent won in the city centers taking both Crosby precincts, the cities of Cuyuna, Deerwood, Riverton and Ironton. Houge also made a strong showing his home area of Irondale Township. He had 3,121 votes to Hasskamp’s 2,892. There were 39 write-in votes.
Houge, 49, is manager at Stenerson Lumber and owner of the Crosby Bar and Off-Sale. He’s represented District 5 for the past six years, after winning a special election to take the seat vacated with the death of long-time commissioner John “Jinx” Ferrari. Houge recently purchased the Crosby Bar, which previously belonged to Ferrari.
It’s not the first time the two have faced each other in an election. Houge outdistanced Hasskamp in 2007, gaining 60.8 percent of the vote in a special election, to win the remainder of Ferrari’s seat. Houge was re-elected in 2008.
Hasskamp, who served 12 years as a state representative for District 12A, had the majority of votes in Bay Lake, Center, Fairfield, Little Pine, Perry Lake, Ross Lake and Wolford townships, along with the cities of Emily, Fifty Lakes and Trommald. Hasskamp wasn’t available for comment Wednesday. Some races in individual precincts were close with Hasskamp getting 20 votes in the city of Manhattan Beach compared to Houge’s 19.
Houge said keys included doing well in populous areas like Crosby while Hasskamp did very well in smaller outlying communities.
Houge said he believed the difference came from the county board’s work to control spending and to improve customer service. Since June of 2008, Houge has been the only commissioner not collecting a per diem for extra meetings or expense reimbursements from the county. While campaigning, Houge said people related to the effort to run the county more as a business. The county created a much more friendly customer service atmosphere than people were previously used to, he said.
“We’ve really made a culture change at Crow Wing County” Houge said.
And Houge said with plans to make improvements in the Community Services Department for greater efficiencies and potential tax savings, there are a lot more opportunities out there.
“I’m excited to see that one through,” he said. “I’m excited to have four more years to continue some of the work. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go yet.”
Houge credited Hasskamp’s campaign efforts.
“She ran a pretty aggressive campaign and I’ll give her a lot of credit for that.”