Carlton County Commissioner Gary Peterson and Alex French have advanced to the general election after all votes were counted from the primary Tuesday, Aug. 11.

Peterson led with 593 votes, or about 51% of the total, and French received 358 votes, or approximately 31%.

Peterson took a commanding lead with votes counted Tuesday, but with absentee ballots still arriving in the days after the primary, the race between French and Marci Moreland remained too close to call until all votes were counted.

Gary Peterson
Gary Peterson

"I'm just real happy with the vote, and I want to thank the people who came out and voted in the primary," Peterson said. "I look forward to the general and expect it to be a friendly campaign. I wish Alex the best of luck in his campaign. I also want to thank Marci for running a positive campaign and sharing her vision for the county."

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French maintained his early lead over Moreland. He compared winning the primary election to winning a section title in a sporting event, but said he still has plenty of work to do.

Alex French
Alex French

“It’s a step towards the ultimate goal, and I can be proud of the accomplishment,” French said. “I’m excited to run against Peterson and respect the effort Mrs. Moreland put in during her campaign.”

Moreland finished third with 213 votes or just more than 18% of the total. She said family obligations interfered with her plans to campaign.

Marci Moreland
Marci Moreland

“Congratulations to Gary and Alex,” Moreland said. “I put my best effort forward. My aunt got very ill during this time, and I helped take care of her until she passed. My family comes first and foremost — I didn’t get a lot of time to campaign.”

Carlton County Auditor Kathy Kortuem said more than 200 ballots arrived at her office following election day, and the county accepted more than 3,400 mail or absentee ballots during the primary. The county sent out 6,036 ballots, an increase of more than 3,400 over the 2018 primary in Carlton County.

The response rate for absentee ballots was approximately 57%, higher than the response rate in Carlton County for the 2018 primary election. Carlton County sent out 2,604 mail and absentee ballots in 2018, with about 51% of those returned.

Korteum said she expects the response rate for ballots in the general election to be higher. Some people may have requested ballots for both the primary and the general elections, but only intended to vote in the general, she said.

In 2018, the county sent out 4,844 mail and absentee ballots for the general election and 4,094 were returned — a response rate of nearly 84%.

Pine Journal reporter Jamie Lund contributed to this report.