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Dailey, Campbell advance in controversial Clay County Commission race

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Mari Dailey, left, a candidate for Clay County Commission, watches election results with Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Northsider bar in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 2

MOORHEAD – In a contested and controversial Clay County Commission primary election Tuesday, Aug. 14, there was a tight race between an incumbent and two challengers both used to seeing their name on ballots here.

Voters had three options for the county’s open seat on the five-member board representing District 4: incumbent Kevin Campbell; Moorhead City Councilwoman Mari Dailey; and Al Gordon, who unsuccessfully tried ousting Campbell in 2014 from the post he’s held since 2003. District 4 includes the townships of Kragness, Oakport and Ward 1 in the city of Moorhead.

County Auditor Lori Johnson said election turnout was what her staff expected for a primary with two contested races on the commission and four candidates running for Clay County Sheriff. She said voting was “steady” Tuesday at the county’s 58 polling sites.

As of press time Tuesday evening with all five of the district’s precincts reporting, complete but unofficial results showed Dailey leading the race with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Campbell came in a close second with 37 percent, while Gordon got a little more than 24 percent.

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Controversy surrounded the race this year as Campbell’s girlfriend, Michelle “Shelly” Swenson, was arrested and charged with assaulting two police officers after entering the Northsider, a north Moorhead bar, on Aug. 3 and shouting obscenities at her ex-husband, who is the bar owner, and Dailey, one of Campbell’s challengers.

At an Aug. 9 candidate forum in Moorhead, Gordon told The Forum that the incident at the Northsider was a “poor reflection” of the elected position.

On Tuesday night, Dailey was at the Northsider bar with acquaintances and Mayor Del Rae Williams watching results roll in. After serving five years on the city’s governing board, she's looking to make the transition to serving on the county board.

“I am so honored and flattered that the people of north Moorhead have trusted my leadership and representation,” Dailey said. “I’m a bit overwhelmed by the win.”

Calls left with Campbell on Tuesday night were not returned.

Campbell and Dailey will face each other in the Nov. 6 general election.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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