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Hankinson mayor helps write-in candidate defeat him in election

Ousted Hankinson, North Dakota mayor Joseph O'Meara (left) helped orchestrate his own defeat at the hands of write-in candidate Loren Hovel (right) .

Hankinson, ND (WDAY-TV)- A write-in candidate registered a sizeable victory here Tuesday in the race for mayor.

It’s a feat that rarely—if ever—happens.

 However, in this small slice of the USA, it wasn’t a surprise at all to the now ousted 2-term mayor Joseph O’Meara.

In fact, he helped orchestrate his own defeat.

"Hey, you know, election's coming up Tuesday and I'm campaigning,” O’Meara recalled of the recent campaign speech he’d recite when bumping in to residents on the street.  “And I want you to write-in the name “Hovel”.

 The name “Hovel” refers to Loren Hovel, a former city councilman and the man who defeated O’Meara.

 O’Meara said those exchanges would often draw puzzled looks from his constituents.

 After all, why run if you want to lose?

 “It's time for me to leave and it's time for somebody else to be in there and he's an excellent choice," said O’Meara.

 Months previous to the election, O’Meara had tried to get Hovel to enter the race with the goal of succeeding him as mayor.

 “I wasn’t there yet,” said Hovel remembering his response to O’Meara’s offer to take over the part-time job that pays a whopping $140 a week.

And it was an offer.

No one had filed to run for the office and O’Meara was left to find his own replacement, serve another term or, in his terms, abandon ship.

“I wasn’t going to leave the ship without a captain,” said O’Meara of his decision to eventually file and run unopposed.

However, community members stepped forward and convinced Hovel that it was the right time to take over the duties of mayor.

"They (the community) were behind me,” said Hovel. “And I think it was multiple people who said, 'You know what? You can do it.' “

As the filing deadline had already passed, a silent campaign grew supporting Hovel as a write-in candidate.  

And although the official record will show O’Meara lost to Hovel, it was really a win-win for everyone involved.


A write-in candidate also registered a win in the race for Fargo Park Board on Tuesday.

411 write-in votes were tallied in that race according to Cass County Elections Coordinator DeAnn Buckhouse.

However, the race was a rare exception.

Buckhouse said write-in votes are fairly rare in the densely populated county where most offices feature contested races.

If a voter does cast a write-in vote, it’s usually in jest.

“One of them had "lizard people" as a write-in,” said Buckhouse.”

Fortunately, by law, write-in votes only have to be counted if they make up 1 percent of the total vote for that race.

And for those races that do rely on write-ins for a result, the process can be time consuming.

In fact, one precinct in Cass County delayed reporting by 90 minutes all because officials had to count write-in ballots.

"I would say the biggest delay of precincts coming in with their results on election night is because they're at the polls trying to tally those write-ins," said Buckhouse. 

Drew Trafton

I joined the WDAY 6 news team in September of 2013 as a weekend anchor and reporter. I am currently the Assitant News Director and 5p.m. anchor. Previous to arriving in the F-M area, I worked as a broadcast journalist at the CBS affiliate (KTVQ) in Billings, Montana (sidenote: my hometown). I have worn many hats in my young broadcast career as an anchor, reporter, producer, sports producer and online producer. However, my favorite role to play is storyteller. Off the clock (are we ever really off the clock?) I enjoy taking in a sporting event on TV or in person. On the professional level, I root for Seattle teams. As a graduate of the University of Montana, I also enjoys FCS football (but forgive my allegiance). I also enjoy reading, watching movies, listening to good music and frolicking in the outdoors. I enjoy those things all the more when I can do them with my wife and our daughter. If you have a story idea for me, or just want to say hello, you can send me an email!

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