By ALLISON SQUIRES and PETER BULGER
Dave Strohmaier, a contract historian and political newcomer, won the Ward 1 City Council seat in Tuesday's election, taking more than 60 percent of the vote in his race with real estate agent and former City Councilman Cass Chinske.
The 40-year-old Strohmaier, who also does freelance nature writing, colleced 1,383 votes to Chinske's 879. Chinske, who touted his experience throughout the campaign, also ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2001. He represented Ward 1 on the council from 1977 to 1984.
During the campaign, both candidates stressed the importance of securing open space around Missoula to prevent urban sprawl. Both favored building new homes in existing neighborhoods -- or "infill" -- as a way to solve Missoula’s growth problems, though Chinske was more cautious.
They also clashed over the city's efforts to extend sewers into the Rattlesnake. Strohmaier said sewers are necessary to protect Missoula's underground water supply, but Chinske worred that they will allow developers to build too many homes in the area.
Strohmaier attributed his win to his focus on sustaining the community of Missoula as a whole.
“Other candidates, including Chinske, focused on separate, though important, issues." he said. "I unified those issues under one common theme.”
Chinske said he didn’t know why he lost or how Strohmaier’s election will affect council politics. He refused to comment on anything else.
During the campaign, Strohmaier endorsed the proposal by Missoula and five other Montana cities to buy NorthWestern Energy and provide public power to thousands of Montanans as a nonprofit, publicly owned utility.
Chinske said he couldn’t support the plan without more concrete information about how the utility would be run.