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Jorgensen tops council race

August 22, 2018

Arne Jorgensen was the top vote-getter among Town Council candidates in Tuesday’s primary election, followed by Don Frank, Jonathan Schechter and Jessica Sell Chambers.

The four will advance to the general election in November to compete for two seats on the council. Candidates Zach Padilla and Judd Grossman won’t advance past the primary. The town race attracted 4,200 voters.

Jorgensen, a local architect who at 24 percent won by the widest margin, 4 percentage points ahead of Frank, wrote in a prepared statement that he looks forward to working on the town’s affordable housing shortage and conservation legacy.

“I am excited to meet with and listen to many more people in our community,” he wrote. “I want to know what our hopes, questions, and concerns are for Jackson’s future so that we can strategize the ways we will attain our collective goals.”

But after watching many current and future elected officials spend an hour chatting over drinks at Hole Bowl while they awaited the results, Jorgensen had other things on his mind. As he stood under the pool table light, he hugged and congratulated Chambers and was struck by the mutual support among competitors.

“I am really, really excited about this event tonight,” he said. “We should try to build on this.”

Schechter, director of the Jackson-based think tank Charture Institute (who will now have to go at least another two months without writing his Corpus Callosum column for the News&Guide), agreed with Jorgensen, rejoicing in the evening of civic engagement.

“I’m gratified to get through. I look forward to the race,” Schechter said. But, he added, “I think the most important thing is that so many candidates showed up here to celebrate the community.”

Frank, who was first appointed to the council in 2013 and re-elected in 2014, fell just short of 20 percent, gathering the second most votes. He dropped by Hole Bowl with his wife and son early in the night, but left early for the Chick Corea Akoustic Band concert at the Center for the Arts.

“I am always grateful for the privilege to serve and support when it is earned,” he said later via text. “Proud of our community commitment to open, forthright search for wholesome greater good.”

Chambers, the national committeewoman for the Democratic National Committee and chairwoman of the progressive caucus in the Wyoming Democratic Party, spent much valuable campaign time away from Jackson due to a family illness. Considering that, she was “shocked” but encouraged that she made it through the primary, albeit in a close call.

“I’m really happy that people came out and voted for me,” Chambers said. “I’m really excited for what that says about their priorities. It gives me hope.”

She said she is back in Jackson to stay and ready to spend the coming months campaigning.

“Now,” she said, “I have to get to work.”

Judd Grossman, who trailed just half a percentage point behind Chambers, was disappointed but congratulated the winners. The musician ran in the 2016 race, coming in third behind Jim Stanford and Hailey Morton Levinson. He’s unsure whether he’ll try again in 2020.

“It seems like maybe I’m not the world’s greatest candidate,” he said. “I really enjoy trying to think about what’s the right thing to do for our town. The whole election part wasn’t my focus.”

Nevertheless he is a common sight at council meetings and said that isn’t likely to change.

“I’m sure it will be hard to resist giving my advice to the council,” he said.

Zach Padilla, who was arrested just two days before the election for possession of a felony amount of marijuana edibles, fell about 8 percentage points behind Grossman, the widest margin between two candidates.

“I’m obviously not thrilled,” he said. “But this town needs a good leader, and … I think Arne will be a fantastic leader for this community.”

The owner of Bomb Sommelier and Bomb Beverages was also unsure whether he’ll make a second bid in the next election.

“I’ll continue to serve the community any way that I can,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t mean I’ll run for office again.”

The four primary victors will now compete in the general election on Nov. 6 for the seats belonging to Frank and longtime councilor Bob Lenz, who is not seeking re-election after four terms.

“Our community is extraordinary, and we are fortunate to have many extraordinary people willing to lead and be voices for our town,” Jorgensen wrote in his statement. “Thank you again to everyone who voted in this election.”

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