The TVs upstairs at the Iron Horse were tuned to CBS dramas and an NBA game, not election results, so Jesse Ramos wasn’t the first to know the vote count of his City Council race. The party was hosted by mayoral challenger Lisa Triepke, but it was Ramos’ nerves that were most visible.
Twenty-seven years old and in his first, hotly contested race for office, Ramos gave his all to campaigning, showing up at City Council meetings in a suit to offer comments every week during the race. He also wore a suit (with pocket square!) to the party, and while other supporters were joking about their plans to get drunk, Ramos quietly passed off a shot handed to him by a friend.
We were the first to show Ramos the returns. On a night when progressives were winning across the country—a former refugee from Liberia even unseated Helena’s longtime mayor—the initial count in Missoula showed that two liberal candidates had tripped over one another in Missoula’s Ward 4, handing Ramos an easy win with 43 percent of the vote. “We’ll just see how it goes,” the former Eagle Scout said. “I’m here to support my friends.” We then watched as veteran Republican campaigner Jim Royan delivered the results more bluntly. “You’re going to win,” Royan explained. Ramos looked like a deer in the headlights.
Ramos’ election to Council means the exit of 12-year incumbent Jon Wilkins. Fellow councilmember Bryan von Lossberg, surrounded by jubilant progressives at Mayor John Engen’s party across town at the Public House, noted Wilkins’ departure. “It’s sad to see a dedicated, longtime veteran not have a chance to continue his work,” von Lossberg said. Outgoing councilmember Marilyn Marler observed that Ward 4 will now have the Council’s sole conservative member.
During his first TV interview, Ramos thanked Wilkins for his years of service and promised to use his fiscally conservative voice on Council to control taxes. The reporter finished taping, then gave Ramos a one-armed hug. “Congrats, bro,” he said.
“Now the real work begins,” Ramos said as we intercepted him en route back to the party. Having sworn off drinking now that he’s a councilmember, Ramos said he’d be hitting the gym to manage the stress of public service. He then politely moved on. He wanted to go support his friends in the other room, he said.