Tuesday’s general election in Ellis County resulted in an unusually high voter turnout — and a Hays City Commission race that is too close to call.
Two candidates are separated by only 17 votes for the third-place spot on the commission, which will result in a two-year term. According to unofficial results released Tuesday night, Chris Dinkel was in the lead with 1,806 votes, while Dustin Roths followed closely behind at 1,789 votes.
The top two vote-getters were incumbents Shaun Musil and Sandy Jacobs, who each will get another four-year term.
With several provisional ballots not yet counted and the possibility of additional mail-in ballots arriving at the county clerk’s office this week, that leaves the race too close to call. Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus said a change in state law allows mail-in ballots to be counted if they arrive by Friday, though they must have been postmarked by Nov. 7.
“I’m excited to serve if the provisionals all come through,” Dinkel said Tuesday night. “I’m disappointed with the (school) bond. I had hoped that the city would get behind that, but apparently they didn’t.”
Dinkel also advocated for a proposed $78.5 million bond for Hays USD 489 infrastructure needs, which was defeated by voters by a margin of approximately 20 percent, according to unofficial numbers.
Roths said Tuesday he was a bit surprised by the outcome, in part because the school bond was rejected by such a large margin.
“I really appreciate everybody that came out and voted,” he said. “I kind of figured, considering my conservative stance, that if the bond failed by as much as it has, I figured I would do a little better.”
Both candidates acknowledged the outcome of the race has potential to change, pending the final tally of votes at the Ellis County Commission meeting Monday.
If the race remains close, there also is the possibility of a recount, which could be requested by one of the candidates, Maskus said.
Musil was the top vote-getter, with more than 3,200 votes as of Tuesday night’s results.
“Just thank you to the people that voted for me and giving me an opportunity to do it one more time,” he said. “To me, it definitely pays off going door-to-door and seeing people. I’ve enjoyed my time on there, and hopefully I can continue to do a good job and do what’s right for the city.”
Jacobs, who was appointed to fill a vacant term on the commission in January, received more than 2,700 votes.
“I really appreciate and am humbled by the vote of the citizens and appreciate the confidence they have in me,” she said. “I think there’s really a lot of work to be done in the next four years, and I was hoping to be a part of that. I feel connected to it even in this very short time I’ve been on the commission.”
The fifth candidate was John Mayers, who received more than 1,000 votes.
More than 39 percent of eligible Ellis County voters took to the polls in Tuesday’s election, marking a significant increase in turnout compared to most local elections, Maskus said. That number also has room to grow pending the final ballot count next week.
There also was an unusually high number of write-in votes, with candidates on both the Hays and Ellis boards of education launching write-in campaigns.
“I think it’s very high for city and school,” Maskus said of voter turnout. “I didn’t look back, but I’m sure it is. We all know … the local races have been a low one. People got out, and I’m proud of people doing that.”