EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Three-way county commissioner races are fairly common in Eagle County. So are the results: Someone from one of the two major parties always wins. In this case, it was Democrat Jill Ryan prevailing over Republican Jeff Layman.
Layman held a slim lead for much of the night in preliminary vote counts, with Ryan pulling into the lead in the late hours. As of the 1 a.m. release of preliminary numbers, she had built a lead of just more than 400 votes with fewer than 1,000 left to count.
Earlier in the evening, it looked as if the race would end up in mandatory-recount territory - a difference of 1 percent or less in the initial count.
Left out in the tight race was independent Dale Nelson, who, as of the 1 a.m. report election night, had earned just more than 1,800 our of nearly 19,700 votes.
Despite the result, Nelson said his campaign was still worth the time and effort.
"I guess I just needed to campaign harder," he said.
Nelson got into the race as an independent because he's been an unaffiliated voter for more than a decade, and said he's disenchanted with the country's two-party system.
"I really thought this could be a good year for an independent - there's so much polarization," Nelson said. On the other hand, that polarization in some cases meant people just voted a straight party-line ballot.
"One lady I talked to didn't even know who she was voting for - she was just voting for the party," Nelson said.
Still, Nelson said, he hoped he helped affect the campaign's conversation.
While Layman and Ryan waited out the results, both said they believed the county would be well served no matter who the ultimate winner is.
"Either way this goes, I'd like to thank Jill and Dale for conducting such positive campaigns," Layman said at about 11 p.m. "None of us disparaged our fellow candidates."
With Ryan the apparent winner, she also praised the other candidates in the race.
Turning to her own campaign, Ryan said "It's been an amazing journey.
"I've really appreciated campaigning with Jeff and Dale," Ryan added. "We've had good conversations about the future of the county, I've gotten to meet a lot of great people."
Ryan said her task now is learning more about the job she earned Tuesday.
"I want to start talking and meeting with people, and to continue the learning process until the time I'm sworn in," she said.