By Michael Pineda
Both Tracey Rider and Robert Merrick entered Tuesday night expecting a close race for Canadian County Commissioner District 3.
It lived up to the hype.
With all 23 precincts reporting in, it was Rider who was the unofficial winner, receiving 2,488 votes (50.85%) to Merrick’s 2,405 votes (49.15%). The vote will become official following certification by the county election board Friday.
“When I found out, I felt a sense of relief, excitement and gratitude, total gratitude for me being able to start a job and serve the people,” Rider said.
Rider will take office in January. Until she takes the oath, Rider plans on continuing to work, in addition to serving on the El Reno City Council.
“We have some exciting things working and I am really excited about that,” she said. “I told the city manager last night when he contacted me, ‘I’m glad I don’t take office until January because I am not ready to start missing you guys yet.’”
Rider followed the election results at Cimarron Fields Event Barn with friends and family. It became apparent the race would go down to the wire as reports from the District 1 precincts filtered in.
“Its really nerve-racking, the not knowing is more difficult than the final results,” Rider said.
“It’s not in they same world as running for city council, because the territory is so expanded, so far out of El Reno. It’s been very challenging but very rewarding because you meet so many new people – and most all of them have been so welcoming. They all have concerns and questions.
“I am just ready to hit the ground running to serve.”
Canadian County Court Clerk Marie Hirst was among those at the watch party in support of Rider. Hirst referred to Rider as a smart lady who brings a variety of experience to the job and will learn quickly.
“Tracey and I have been friends for a long time,” Hirst said. “She came and asked me if it was a good idea to run. I said yes, because of her knowledge and experience. She’s a very well-rounded person that would fit in and add some extra special dynamics to the county commissioners, because of her knowledge of HR, accounting, budgets, all of that.”
Rider said the support she received in her run for county commissioner had a big impact. While she said it was enjoyable, Rider added it she was as exhausted as she has been in her life.
“But I have enjoyed it because I had to keep the goal in mind of service that this position requires,” Rider said. “That has been my motivating factor. Not only that but the people that are supporting me, they are the ones who have kept me going when things got really hard.
“I have had support in every way – from moral support, to ‘Hey, can I have a sign,’ to ‘I’m praying for you, you have got this; I see you are tired; you can do this and we need you.’ All levels of support.”
As early returns began coming in Tuesday night, Rider said she did not take the support that she had received lightly.
“I have been very humbled by the support and it has made me feel like I have an even bigger responsibility to the people of the county because they have been so supportive,” she said. “It’s like I have a responsibility now to win because of all the support I have.
As for her opponent in the race, Rider said, “Job, well done.”
Merrick said he felt like the race would be close based on the reception he received campaigning and knocking on doors. He described the experience as encouraging.
“I was happy to get out and make contact with people and a lot of them shared their concerns and were very supportive,” Merrick said. “It was just nice that they were kind and happy that I stopped by and shared with me their concerns about things. I appreciated that.”
Merrick said the overall turnout was smaller than what he expected. A total of 4,893 voted in the District 3 commissioner race.
“I don’t know exactly what the percentage was, but I figured we would have a bigger turnout of voters,” he said. “It was the only thing that did surprise me, was we expected more people to get out and vote.”
Despite coming up short, Merrick remains interested in politics and did not rule out another future campaign.
“I am not sure what office, but absolutely, I am interested in running again,” he said. “And the reason why is because we have to continue to make a difference locally and statewide for the cause of liberty. We have to continue to fight the good fight to make a difference in the world. To make a difference at home. I will get involved again at some point.”
Both Rider and Tomas Manske will begin their first term as county commissioners in January. Manske defeated incumbent Marc Hader in District 1. They will join Commissioner Dave Anderson, who represents District 2.