Wiggins beats Bantle in sheriff’s race | SteamboatToday.com

Wiggins beats Bantle in sheriff’s race

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the final vote count.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County voters to have elected Garrett Wiggins to serve another four years as sheriff in a tight race against Democratic challenger Kristin Bantle.

Wiggins won 6,728 to 6,248 votes.

This will be Wiggins' third term as sheriff.

"A win's a win," Wiggins said when asked about the close race. "I'm happy to retain my position, and I'm looking forward to another four years of serving my community.”

At 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 940 uncounted ballots, Wiggins had 6,261 votes to Bantle’s 5,749, and Bantle had conceded the race.

"I was really hoping for a bigger spread, but I know how people are so emotional right now based on politics at the national level," Wiggins said. "There is a lot of division out there. I sure hope we can get our country back, and people can start working together."

The sheriff’s race between Bantle and Wiggins has been contentious.

Bantle filed a lawsuit in federal court in May 2016 alleging Wiggins violated her constitutional right to privacy when he released information related to Bantle's past illegal drug use she felt would be kept confidential.

The lawsuit was related to events going back to 2013 when Bantle pursued leaving the Steamboat Springs Police Department and applied for a job at the Sheriff's Office.

During the application process, Wiggins learned Bantle did not disclose all the previous drugs she had used. He learned she used cocaine the previous summer while she was employed as a Steamboat police officer.

The events led to Bantle being charged with felony attempt to influence a public servant. A jury acquitted her of the charges.

Bantle's lawsuit against Wiggins filed in federal court was dismissed by a judge.

The personal feelings between Bantle and Wiggins came to a head during an Oct. 10 candidates forum at The Steamboat Grand.

During the forum, Wiggins brought up Bantle's past use of cocaine and a "history of lying to get out of trouble."

Bantle said she felt she had been retaliated against for being a whistleblower.

After the forum, a verbal altercation in the hallway between Wiggins and Bantle's husband led to both men reporting the incident to Steamboat Springs police.

Wiggins said it has been a stressful campaign.

"All campaigns are stressful, because the fear of the unknown is always out there," Wiggins said.

Bantle expressed her gratitude in an email Tuesday night.

“I need to thank my family, without whom, none of this would have been possible” Bantle said. “I'd like to thank all the people that took time to vote in this election. My deepest gratitude goes out to my many supporters that believe in me and voted for me. I want to thank the Democratic party and the efforts they put forth for not only my campaign but also all the  other blue candidates that ran for needed change. This is an exciting time for law enforcement in Routt County, and I wish the best for the Routt County Sheriff's Office.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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