By PETER HUSSMANN
Dan Kelley said he expected a tight vote when he walked in the door to Thursday's special nominating convention to fill the vacancy on the Democratic ticket due to the death of long-time House District 41 Rep. Paul Bell.
And he got it.
Kelley, the Jasper County Democratic Party chairman, edged past Wes Breckenridge, a newcomer to party politics hoping to follow Bell's path from law enforcer to law creator, by receiving just three weighted votes more than the necessary threshold to win.
The final vote tally was 3,326 for Kelley to 3,120 for Breckenridge. Nominee Tracy Doonen received no votes. A total of 3,323 was needed to win.
"I anticipated the close vote," Kelley said after winning the nomination to seek the House seat. "I'd like to thank the delegates. Their faith in me means the world to me. The numbers were exactly how I expected when I came in the door."
The delegates to the special convention, party precinct committee members elected at the January caucus, were as split as they could be. Kelley received the weighted vote support of eight delegates with Breckenridge picking up support from seven. Three eligible delegates to the convention did not attend.
Interestingly, Kelley received no support from any of the Jasper County elected officials who were delegates to the convention.
Supervisors Dennis Stevenson and Rick Tiedje sent their precinct's votes to Breckenridge. State Sen. Dennis Black, Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott and Jasper County Attorney Mike Jacobsen also sent their votes Breckenridge's way. Former Jasper County Human Resources Director Brian Sims and former county supervisor Max Worthington also provided votes for Breckenridge.
But it was Kelley's support among party regulars, including former supervisor Jeanne Bridenstine, that pushed Kelley over the hump. He also received weighted votes from Deb Johnson, Dave Pitz, Cinday Pollard, Bill Guthrie, Dan Ingle and Kelley himself.
Kelley acknowledged the delegate split during his speech seeking the nomination and vowed that the party would leave the convention as a unified block and work toward election in November.
"To the delegates who lean a different direction, again, no looking back," he said. "We have just over three months to take our cause to the voters. Regardless of the results, we walk away from this convention unified and working together towards election day and beyond.
"Much has been said to the effect that, 'Dan deserves it. He's paid his dues. He's done the work for the party.' Delegates, as I have told you, I ask for no support simply as thanks for a job 'well done.' I simply ask that you recognize my demonstration of effective campaign and leadership skills."
In asking for delegate for support, both Kelley and Breckenridge emphasized the need for local job creation, their support for education and their willingness to work hard for the constituents of the district. Doonen, who was a late entry into the nomination quest, acknowledged that now might not be her time but vowed to "be back here sometime."
Breckenridge said he had no regrets following the close vote. He had previously vowed to run a positive campaign and felt his efforts in seeking delegate support showed just that.
"I can hold my head up high for the effort I put forward," he said.
Kelley will face Republican Party political newcomer Gabriel Swersie in the November election.
Following is a breakdown, by precinct, of the weighted votes cast. The votes represent the number of votes Bell received in each precinct in the last general election. When two party precinct committee members were selected within a precinct, each received control of half of the total votes. Four precincts within House District 41 had no representation. Six precincts within the county are not within the House district.
Buena Vista/Elk Creek - Jon Davis (Dan Kelley) - 267 votes
Hickory Grove - Dennis Stevenson (Wes Breckenridge) - 821 votes
Independence/Malaka - Rick Tiedje (Wes Breckenridge) - 633 votes
Lynn Grove/Richland - Dennis Black (Wes Breckenridge) - Deb Johnson - (Dan Kelley) - 163 votes each
Newton/Sherman - Dennis Parrott (Wes Breckenridge) - Brian Sims - (Wes Breckenridge) - 769 votes
Newton 1-2 - Jeanne Bridenstine (Dan Kelley) - Dave Pitz (Dan Kelley) - 530 votes
Newton 2-2 - Cinday Pollard (Dan Kelley) - 543 votes
Newton 3-1 - Mike Jacobsen (Wes Breckenridge) - Bill Guthrie (Dan Kelley) - 393.5 votes each
Newton 3-2 - Dan Ingle (Dan Kelley) - 593 votes
Newton 4-1 - Dan Kelley (Dan Kelley) - 836 votes
Palo Alto - Max Worthington (Wes Breckenridge) - 340 votes
You can read Kelley's convention speech below.