The three declared Jackson Town Council candidates listed on Tuesday’s primary election ballot — Jim Rooks, current Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon and Devon Viehman — will all appear on the November ballot, joined by an as-yet-unknown write-in candidate, according to unofficial primary election results released Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, in the town of Jackson’s mayoral race, current town Councilor Hailey Morton Levinson will appear on the November ballot, presumably alongside write-in candidate Michael Kudar.
In the Town Council race, Rooks, a longtime educator, received 1,441 votes, or 35.3% of the 5,012 ballots cast in the race; Muldoon garnered 1,234 votes, or 30.23%. Viehman, a local Realtor, received 1,068 votes, or 26.16%.
Jessica Sell Chambers and Jennifer Ford both ran write-in campaigns. The unofficial results released shortly before 8:45 Tuesday night had write-in candidates getting 8.3% of the total votes, but did not list how many or the percentage of votes either of the write-in candidates received.
The top four candidates, including the winner between Ford and Sell Chambers, will be listed on the general election ballot in November. The votes will be certified and the successful write-in candidate named on Friday.
Rooks is a now-retired educator, after a 2019 bicycling accident left him with severe nerve pain in his legs and feet that made it difficult to stand and teach. He retired from Jackson Hole High School after the 2019-20 school year ended.
At a recent candidate forum, Rooks said he was running on a platform of “unity in the community. I think we’re all kind of tired of the hyperpartisan, vitriolic, poisonous politics that have come to be the norm at the national level, for sure, and more and more at the state level.”
Reached late Tuesday night, Rooks said he thinks that platform hits home in Jackson.
“I think my central message of ‘unity in the community’ resonates with people, both in the town and the county,” he said. “I think people are ready for a practical, common-sense centrist that has solutions for our incredibly complex local and county problems.”
Muldoon, meanwhile, is no stranger to the Jackson Town Council, having served as the town’s mayor since 2017. He has worked to address the town’s housing and transportation challenges during his time in the mayor’s seat. He has been an ardent supporter of the “seventh penny” sales tax, which is another issue to be decided by voters in November, and a staunch supporter of dense, affordable housing development in Jackson. Muldoon has also been a strong voice in the climate advocacy movement in Teton County of late; the council voted early this year to make Jackson carbon-neutral by 2030.
Viehman, like Rooks, is a newcomer to the Jackson political scene, though the Realtor is known to many in town.
A lifelong Jackson resident, Viehman recently told the News&Guide, “I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I have something to give back to my community.”
Viehman is now raising a family in town.
“Our community has given me and my family so much, it’s time for me to give back to them.”
Muldoon and Viehman sparred verbally for a few moments at the recent candidate forum, with Muldoon accusing Viehman of bypassing local leaders and going to her friend state Rep. Shelly Duncan, a Goshen County Republican and fellow Realtor, to do away with housing mitigation exactions imposed by the town on developers to support public worker housing. Viehman, meanwhile, defended herself, saying she merely thinks the local mitigation rates are too high and insisting she does not want to eliminate them entirely.
Jackson mayoral race
Hailey Morton Levinson, currently the only woman on the Jackson Town Council and manager of a family-owned Jackson bed-and-breakfast, garnered 1,556 of the 2,506 votes cast in the race, or nearly 69%.
Though it wasn’t known Tuesday how many of the write-in votes were cast in Kudar’s favor, 711 votes, or 31.36%, were cast for write-ins and Kudar was the only write-in candidate actively campaigning.
Morton Levinson said late Tuesday, “I’m grateful for the widespread support of the community, and I look forward to the next chapter of the campaign and engaging with the voters between now and November.”
Morton Levinson pointed to her eight years on the Town Council as evidence that she is committed to serving Jackson’s residents.
Kudar, a consultant involved in his motel, said it’s time to hold government accountable and “show respect for the taxpayers.”
“With this huge response to our write-in candidacy, we are looking forward to the general election, when I will be on the ballot and everyone will have the opportunity to vote to bring Jackson together and make our town government more accountable,” Kudar said in a statement Tuesday night.