BY KYNLI SMITH
The race for the Republican nomination for Big Horn County Commission went down to the wire on Tuesday, with Deb Craft of Basin coming out on top, just 32 votes ahead of second-place Dave Neves of Burlington.
In fact, just 102 votes separated the top four candidates in the race, as Craft finished with 610, Neves with 578, Rich Fink of Lovell with 552 and Nick Lewis of Lovell with 508. Chuck Hopkin of Basin rounded out the field, garnering 395 votes.
“I’m excited to have this phase of the election over with and to be moving forward,” said Craft. “I’m still trying to take it all in.”
Craft stayed away from the courthouse on Tuesday evening, wanting to keep her mind off the results. She instead spent her time visiting her in-laws in a local nursing home and decided to check on results at the end.
Craft and Hopkin went toe to toe in Basin,with Craft coming out ahead with 162 votes over Hopkin’s 132. Hopkin, however, beat Craft in Manderson, 33-31.
Neves ran very strong on his home turf, taking 123 votes to Craft’s 17 in Burlington. Neves also carried the Burlington and Otto precincts, where he collected 29 and 25 votes, respectively. Craft won big in Greybull, however, collecting 221 votes, followed by Neves with 134.
“We gave people a choice, they chose and that’s good,” said Neves. “We wish the best to Deb and the whole commission and hope they work well together. Whoever gets in, we hope they do the best for the county; that is what we want.”
In Lovell the votes were nearly split between Fink and Lewis, with Fink earning 299 votes and Lewis earning 243. Lewis won Cowley, earning 116 votes,and also won Byron with 64.
Craft will be going up against Stanley Jones who is running from the Constitution party in the general election in November. If Craft wins, she will be the first woman commissioner to serve Big Horn County.
“I have thought about being the first woman commissioner and it would be exciting but I hope that isn’t the reason people vote for me. I hope they vote for me because I am a small business owner and I am qualified.”
Craft is a lifelong resident of Big Horn County and currently is serving as a trustee for Big Horn County School District No. 4, a position she has held for 22 years. She also serves as vice president for the Basin Recreation Board. In the past Craft has worked at Security Sate Bank in Basin and as a legal secretary and clerk of court. Today she works helping her family run small local businesses.
Craft said she has been attending the county commissioners meetings recently to observe and learn. She said one of the biggest issues the county faces currently along with the rest of the state are budget constraints.
“These times are challenging and we are going to have to work with a limited budget,” said Craft. “I look forward to moving on to the general election and if I am elected I will have a lot to learn but I’m ready. I want to make well-informed decisions and I’m excited to be a part of it.”