This month’s Billings schools election certainly proved that every vote makes a difference.
“It’s as close as you can come to winning without winning,” said Brian Yates, who lost his seat by a single vote to challenger John VanLangen.
VanLangen received 2,570 votes, while Yates collected 2,569 votes.
The school board voted unanimously to accept the election results Monday night, and Yates says that he will not challenge them, despite losing by the closest of margins.
“Why not push for a recount? Right now, you have this great moment in Billings where people have engaged in SD2. They engaged in the election. They engaged in the process leading up to it. I have encountered more community members who are diving into policy and topics surrounding the agenda items,” said Yates.
While the high school levy failed by a wide margin, all four district races were decided by fewer than 100 votes.
In district 3, Teresa Larsen beat Shannon Johnson, 2,352 to 2,285. Incumbent Zack Terakedia retained his district 4 seat over Chad Nelson by 1,642 to 1,555. Another incumbent, Scott McCulloch, kept his seat by beating two challengers, Kristen Gilfeather and Kayla Ladson. McCulloch had 1,861 votes, while the closest challenger, Gilfeather, had 1,818.
The election was not only one of the most hotly contested in recent memory, but also became more political than ever following Covid mask mandates and debates over whether LGBTQ-themed library books should be allowed.
Yates said pushing for a recount would only add to the already existing division.
“We have seen across the nation what contesting elections can look like, the divisiveness that can come from that. Divisiveness led us to this great point where now maybe we can work together going forward. We can see some of that unity and I think we can have a better model. Honestly I feel that contesting the election and requesting a recount, I think it opens it up to continue that division,” he said.