By IAN GRAHAM and PATRICK GRUHLER
Former Republican lawmaker Dick Haines soundly defeated Missoula newcomer Mark Fitzgerald to capture the Ward 5 seat in Tuesday's Missoula City Council election.
A former state representative and retired U.S. Forest Service engineer, Haines finished the night with 1,266 votes, about 65 percent of those cast. Fitzgerald, manager of the Starbucks on North Reserve, had 678.
Haines, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, campaigned on his frustration with city government, explified by the cost overruns on the citywide project to build new swimming pools and splash decks around Missoula. He said the city needs to halt and re-examine the project.
Fitzgerald said Tuesday he expected a difficult campaign. He signed up to run at the last minute because there was only one candidate in Ward 5. He said he couldn’t believe more people weren't interested.
“I wish I could have won, but I knew it was an uphill battle to begin with,” Fitzgerald said.
Despite his loss Tuesday, Fitzgerald may still have a shot at a seat on the council. Last month's death of Ward 5 Councilman Bob Lovegrove created a vacacy on the council that will have to be filled by appointment.
Fitzgerald said he hasn’t decided whether to pursue the job.
“I’ve considered applying for the position and seeing what I get back,” he said. “But there’s no final decision.”