TRAVERSE CITY — Tallies, buried in stacks of to-be-counted absentee ballots and snail’s-pace precinct deliveries, trickled into the Grand Traverse County clerk’s office well past midnight.
The full but still-unofficial tally names incumbent Sheriff Tom Bensley as victor of Tuesday’s primary. He drew 73.41 percent of the votes, trailed by challenger Scott Sieffert, who finished the evening with support from 26.36 percent of Grand Traverse County Republican voters.
Bensley shared optimism early in the race, and later on expressed appreciation for those who supported him.
“I feel very good,” Bensley said. “The people who supported me think I’m doing a very good job.
“I think it shows that maybe a sheriff should have law enforcement experience.”
Bensley spent Wednesday — and will likely spend Thursday — taking down campaign signs.
His opponent, Sieffert, said the loss wouldn’t knock him down. He shared he plans to continue his work as a Kingsley elected official and support his community.
He also thanked those who’ve supported him through the race, including friends, family and voters.
“You know, 26, 27 percent of the vote, running against an incumbent? That’s a pretty big chunk,” Sieffert said Wednesday. “I tried to effect some change, and we did. And that’s something I hope will continue.”
He vowed not to “disappear off the face of the planet” and offered hints at a possible second go at the sheriff’s seat in 2024.
“I’d like to issue a warning to whoever (wins) the sheriff’s office that we will be watching,” Sieffert said. “We’re not gonna go away.”
Bensley now awaits November’s election, where he’ll face Democratic challenger Greg Hall, an outspoken opponent of the sheriff who has called for better inmate treatment and improvements within Grand Traverse County’s jail.
Bensley said he plans to prep for it and is “not taking anything for granted.”
Election results should be finalized later this week, pending a review from the county clerk’s office.
ANTRIM COUNTY SHERIFF’S RACE
In Antrim County, clear results came together slowly.
Incumbent Sheriff Dan Bean’s early three-digit lead only grew through the night, and a final tally grants him a fourth term as sheriff.
He took about 66 percent of the vote. His opponent, State Representative Triston Cole, netted 34 percent of the count.
Bean expressed eagerness to continue pushing the sheriff’s department forward.
“I think the residents of Antrim County spoke very well — they wanted to leave me in office because we’ve done a good job,” Bean said Wednesday.
Now secure in having more time to develop new efforts, Bean plans to continue work with Antrim County commissioners on outfitting the department with new technology. He hopes to see body cameras join the roster by 2020’s end.
Funding for the program has already gotten the county’s OK, Bean added.
“That’s the biggest thing moving forward — technology,” he said, noting that body cameras would better protect both officers and Antrim County residents.
Cole expressed optimism as well, despite his defeat. He said he hopes the race and the messages of his campaign spur positive development in law enforcement and community.
Cole said he’ll now be focusing more attention on the final months of his term in the House and working with his successor to share knowledge about the district and the intricacies of House business.
“One of the takeaways here is there was a lot of positive messaging that went out that hopefully the sheriff takes to heart,” Cole said late Tuesday evening.