The victor in the special election Tuesday said he was “humbled” by how many people showed up to support him.
Steve Carmichael, a Republican, won a decisive victory in the nonpartisan race, carrying 63.4 percent of the vote.
Carmichael received 607 votes, while Dave Compton, another Republican, received 256 votes. Steve Dawes, the race's Democrat, earned 44 votes, while Libertarian Michael Knebel earned 41 votes.
Only 959 of 6,167 registered voters cast ballots in the contest, a turnout of 15.6 percent. The 2012 primary, by contrast, saw 21 percent turnout across Sarpy County and the general election prompted 72.6 percent of registered voters in the county to make their voices heard.
"I'm humbled at the response,” Carmichael said. “A 15 percent turnout is not a lot, but for a special election with just one race to decide I was happy with it.”
Carmichael, who served as Bellevue's chief building official for 17 years, said it's clear Ward I experienced a lot of voter apathy.
“People feel they can't make a change, they can't make a difference, but that's the fundamental reason I ran,” he said. “I want to make a difference for my community.”
Compton said his campaign experienced poor turnout, and he anticipated he would lose the race before the unofficial results were announced by the Sarpy County Election Commission.
Nevertheless, Compton said he was pleased to come in second in a strong field of four candidates in his first attempt at elected office. He is a member of the Bellevue Planning Commission, which is an appointed position.
In the 2012 primary, 1,301 votes were cast and Carmichael earned 423 votes, or 32.5 percent, in the four-way race, which was enough to put him on the ballot against the man he eventually replaced, Scott Houghtaling.
Houghtaling comfortably beat Carmichael in the 2012 general election, but Carmichael had a strong showing with 1,593 votes to Houghtaling's 1,871.
Compton didn't run in the 2012 primary because he said he supported Houghtaling, who was the incumbent. But Dawes earned 177 votes, or 13.6 percent, while Knebel brought home 123 votes, or 9.5 percent.
It wasn't too long after the election that Houghtaling said he was leaving the post. He announced he was accepting an out-of-state job opportunity on Feb. 12, and he resigned effective March 31. That prompted a long fight over how to fill the seat that culminated in a special election.
Mayor Rita Sanders thrice nominated businessman Mike Hall to fill the seat, and the Bellevue City Council thrice rejected his appointment.
Initial efforts to call a special election also failed, and the city requested Secretary of State John Gail examine City Attorney Patrick Sullivan's interpretation of the procedure to fill the vacancy.
Gale issued a formal opinion on June 18 supporting Sullivan's views, and Sanders nominated Bill Bonitz at the council's July 8 meeting. After council members rejected Bonitz, Sanders joined a split council to call for a special election to resolve the controversy.
Now, 198 days after Houghtaling's resignation took effect, Carmichael is the newest member of the Bellevue City Council. He will serve the remainder of his predecessor's term, roughly three and a half years.
Compton said he will support Carmichael as he strives to represent Ward I residents and the city as a whole, and will continue his service to Bellevue as a commissioner and a proponent for the future of Olde Towne.
For his part, Carmichael said he will approach the job with a clean slate.
"I come into this with no preconceived notions, or agenda, or anything other than a desire to evaluate every aspect of what I do on the council with fairness and honesty," he said.
Leader Staff Writer Eugene Curtin contributed to this report.