Shannon Reid wins Douglas County Commission 2nd District seat after provisional ballot count

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Douglas County Commission

The Douglas County Commission meets to canvass and certify the August primary election results on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. Douglas County Register of Deeds Kay Pesnell, left, sat in for Commissioner Nancy Thellman, who recused herself from the canvassing.

Story updated at 3:10 p.m. Monday

Democratic candidate Shannon Reid came from behind to win the party’s primary election for the Douglas County Commission’s 2nd District seat on Monday.

Reid finished with just five more votes than incumbent candidate Nancy Thellman, who was running to serve a fourth term. Prior to Monday, Thellman had led Reid by six votes.

“I’m feeling really incredible right now,” Reid said Monday afternoon. “I’m more proud than ever to be from this place and to be elected by my community,” she added.

However, a recount of the votes is coming later this week, after Thellman formally requested one.

Plus, the Republican challenger in the race held out the possibility of restarting his campaign. Republican Brett LaRue previously said he did not intend to actively campaign for the seat and had endorsed Thellman. Now that Reid is the apparent winner, he said he is reconsidering that position.

The County Commission on Monday met for a special meeting to canvass and certify the election results, but first approved adding about 570 provisional ballots to the county’s total vote count. After counting the ballots, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew announced the final results, showing Reid with the lead.

The commissioners then certified the results and the official results have been published on the county’s website, Douglas County Register of Deeds Kay Pesnell served as a stand-in for Thellman, who recused herself from the canvassing to avoid a conflict of interest.

With 6,235 votes counted, Reid received 2,349 votes and Thellman received 2,344, giving each of them about 37% of all ballots cast. Sara Taliaferro, the third candidate in the race, received 1,542, for just under 25%.

Reid, who specifically challenged Thellman because of her previous support of a controversial Douglas County Jail expansion project, said she believes the results show that a majority of the Democratic voters in the 2nd District are looking for new leadership.

Although she did not receive a majority of votes either, Reid said she will continue to listen to voters to understand what they expect from the 2nd District’s representative and take that into account as its new commissioner, if she wins the general election contest.

“I have a lot of roots in this community, and I have connections and relationships with a lot of people in my district already and I’m looking forward to growing that,” Reid said.

Meanwhile, Thellman told the Journal-World she was “deeply disappointed” with the official results. But she also said she requested a recount to be certain of the final tally.

Despite the commissioners certifying the results, Thellman had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to request a recount. She told the Journal-World she officially requested a recount by hand Monday afternoon.

“That will put any doubts to rest about the outcome,” Thellman said of the upcoming recount. “It’s the last necessary step in a really important democratic process.”

Shew said his office is required to start recounting the day after the request, which is Tuesday, but the office has five days to complete the count. He said his office will begin the recount 1 p.m. Tuesday “to allow us the opportunity to prepare for the recount process.”

As the winner of the Democratic Primary, Reid was expected to become the next commissioner for the 2nd District because Republican Brett LaRue, who will appear on the November general election ballot for the seat, previously told the Journal-World that he was not actively campaigning for election. He also endorsed Thellman in the race.

However, when reached by text message Monday, LaRue would not confirm that he was still sitting out of the race. Initially he said he had no comment about Monday’s results in the Democratic Party, but he eventually said that he would need to research Reid’s stance on issues before making a decision on whether he would remain inactive.

“I need to do some more research into Ms. Reid and her ideas, and if they don’t coincide with what I believe is best for Douglas County, then I will likely resume campaigning,” LaRue said in the text message.

Similar to Reid, LaRue told the Journal-World in June that he chose to run for County Commission because he opposed the county’s plan to expand its jail. But after speaking to Thellman about her decision to reconsider the project, he said he stopped campaigning for the position.

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