(Update: Overnight vote tally shifts lead in House District 54; no automatic recount; other Wednesday counts)
Rep. Cheri Helt, Bend City Councilor Justin Livingston among those ousted
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A new round of Deschutes County ballot results early Wednesday morning moved state Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, ahead of Democratic challenger Eileen Kiely, after Kiely had led narrowly in the night's earlier counts.
Overall, Central Oregon voters Tuesday night kept some incumbents in their seats, but others in tough high-profile contests were defeated by challengers -- handily or narrowly -- and several big-ticket money measures won approval, despite the challenges of COVID-19.
NewsChannel 21 political analysts Judy Stiegler and Jeff Eager agreed that the results showed a shift toward the left and the Democrats in Deschutes County.
From the top of the statewide races, as of midday Wednesday, with 2/16 million of the 2.36 million ballots counted, Democratic challenger Joe Biden easily won Oregon's seven Electoral College votes, 57 percent to President Trump’s 40 percent, while Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., defeated Republican challenger Jo Rae Perkins by a similar margin, 58 to 39 percent.
In the Second District congressional race to succeed retiring Rep. Greg Walden, fellow Republican Cliff Bentz won with 60 percent of the vote to Democrat Alex Spenser’s 37 percent.
Bentz told NewsChannel 21: "I am very very happy that we have been successful, because it would have been very sad to go back to everyone and just have worked so hard -- literally hundreds of people working. So I am just very relieved that we won."
The state’s Democratic leaning also showed in the race for secretary of state, as Democrat Shemia Fagan outdistanced Republican Kim Thatcher, 51 to 43 percent. In the state treasurer’s race, Democrat incumbent Tobias Read held the seat with 52 percent of the vote to Republican Jeff Gudman’s 41 percent. Democrat Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum won re-election with 57 percent to GOP challenger Michael Cross’s 41 percent.
OREGON BALLOT MEASURES:
Measure 107, the path to allowing campaign finance limits, was easily approved, with 79 percent in favor.
Measure 108, the tobacco tax hike and new e-cigarette/vaping tax, also gained easy approval, with 67 percent of voters in favor.
Measure 109, to allow use of psilocybin mushrooms at supervised facilities, also won, with 56 percent of the votes in favor Wednesday.
And Measure 110, to decriminalize some hard drugs and use marijuana taxes for statewide addiction/recovery services, also gained approval, 59 to 41 percent.
The first Deschutes County results came in just before 8:30 p.m., and in the hard-fought race for state Senate District 27, Democrat challenger Eileen Kiely was narrowly defeating GOP Senator Tim Knopp by less than 2,000 votes, 51 to 49 percent.
But the race tightened later Tuesday night, as Kiely led Knopp by just 713 votes out of nearly 86,000 counted.
A new, last-of-the-night round of ballots were added around 3 a.m., and the tide turned, with Knopp moving ahead of KIely, 51 to 49 percent, 47,845 votes to 46,299 votes -- a 1,546-vote advantage out of more more than 94,000 ballots cast.
But the tide turned when a new, last-of-the-night round of ballots were added around 3 a.m., and Knopp moved ahead of Kiely, 51 to 49 percent, or 47,845 votes to 46,299 votes -- a 1,546-vote advantage out of more more than 94,000 ballots cast.
While Knopp's new lead was more substantial than Kiely's had been, neither figure would have required an automatic recount, Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship said.
State law only dictates such a recount if the difference is votes is less than 1/5 of 1 percent of the total votes for both candidates. -- or in this case, 188 votes out of the 94,144 total votes cast.
In a post to her campaign's Facebook page late Tuesday, Kiely said: "It’s so inspiring to see such high turnout in Central Oregon and across the state and country.
"While it’s too soon to tell the outcome of this race, I’m extremely grateful to all the Central Oregonians who voted and volunteered to bring change to our community.
"As we await results and as election officials continue to count ballots, I want to thank my awesome campaign staff and supporters, who called nearly 100,000 people and worked tirelessly in the midst of what has been an unprecedented time to campaign," Kiely concluded.
Knopp, who said he lost his voice after making many "get out the vote" calls, provided a statement late Tuesday to NewsChannel 21:
"As many expected, we find ourselves in an incredibly close race for Senate District 27. Regardless of the outcome of this election, we will respect the results. Eileen Kiely has proven herself to be a tough competitor.
"The promise of our election process is that all voices are heard. We respect that promise by allowing the entire process to take place and have all votes counted. I am grateful for our county elections department for their diligent work to ensure that promise.
"I will issue a statement when we have more information on Wednesday. I want to thank my family, campaign volunteers and supporters for their belief in me during this hard fought campaign," Knopp said.
It was far less close in the heated, costly House District 54 race, as Democrat challenger Jason Kropf handily defeated GOP incumbent Cheri Helt 60 percent to 39 percent, about 10,000 votes apart out of about 45,000 ballots cast.
Kropf said earlier Tuesday: "What I did at the beginning of this race is I challenged myself, and I said, 'I’m going to call as many people throughout this town as possible, from all sections of the community, all different political parties. Every time I make those calls, I learn something, when I talk to people about their experiences and what they want for Bend."
Helt said in a Facebook post she had called Kropf to congratulate him on his victory.
"Obviously, I’m disappointed by the outcome and what it says about the polarized and partisan nature of our politics, nationally and here in Oregon," she wrote. "As a community it is now time to unite around our humanity and shared values. I am looking forward to dedicating more time to being a wife, mom, sister and daughter, and finding the next path to serve our community. I’m blessed to be an Oregonian and an American."
In the House District 53 race, Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, was winning re-election with 57 percent of the votes to Democratic challenger Emerson Levy’s 43 percent.
In House District 55, Republican incumbent Vikki Breese-Iverson was winning handily, 74 percent to Democrat Barbara Fontaine’s 26 percent as of Wednesday.
In sprawling Senate District 30, appointed Republican incumbent Lynn Findley had 67 percent of the vote to Democrat Carina Miller’s 33 percent.
And in Senate District 28, GOP incumbent Dennis Linthicum had 73 percent of the vote to Democrat Hugh Palcic’s 27 percent.
Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson lost his re-election bid, with Democratic challenger Phil Chang ahead 52 percent to 48 percent in the early Wednesday results.
In another high-profile race, Sheriff Shane Nelson defeated challenger Scott Schaier, 56 to 44 percent.
Nelson issued this statement: “I am deeply honored by the trust and confidence placed in me, and my teammates, by the voters of Deschutes County. Together with the great people at your Sheriff's Office, I will do everything I can to continue to improve services to my 200,000 bosses. My door will always be open and I will always try to do my best,” Nelson stated to well-wishers.
“I am profoundly grateful for the people who have supported my campaign in various ways and those who gave their time to volunteer on my behalf. Particularly Lisa, my wife, my constant, and my rock. I can’t believe she still puts up with me after 20 years of marriage!” he added.
Despite the year’s unprecedented economic challenges, voters approved several money measures.
Measure 9-135, the $190 million city of Bend transportation bond measure, was approved, 58 percent to 42 percent.
"Passing this bond is a historic win for Bend -- it will dramatically improve our transportation system as we continue to grow,” said Mike Riley, executive director of The Environmental Center and Go Bend 2020 Co-Chair. “This measure will improve safety for all of us, whether we walk, bike, drive or ride the bus, and protect our quality of life for years to come,
The $195 million Deschutes Public Library expansion measure was approved, 52 to 48 percent, a much narrower, 5,000-vote victory margin than seen Tuesday night.
“After six years of planning and meeting with more than 6,000 community members, we are very pleased to put our vision into action and provide outstanding library spaces and services for decades to come,” said Library Director Todd Dunkelberg. “We are eager to create designs to update and expand buildings and services to better serve all residents throughout Deschutes County.”
The Redmond School District’s $27.5 million bond measure also won approval, 59 to 41 percent.
“We want to thank the citizens of the Redmond community,” said Dr. Charan Cline, Redmond School District superintendent. “This critical bond will allow the district to preserve school facilities, make them safer and plan for the growth of Redmond.”
The $27.5 million bond measure will allow the district to upgrade and update all 13 schools to provide healthy, safe and secure campuses that are modern and efficient, officials said. The district will expand student capacity and prepare for future growth by building six additional classrooms at both Vern Patrick Elementary School and Tom McCall Elementary School.
Deschutes County Measure 9-134, which would have allowed more commercial marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas, was defeated, 58 to 42 percent.
In the Bend City Council races, voters unseated Position 1 incumbent Justin Livingston by a wide margin, as challenger Melanie Kebler had 60 percent to Livingston’s 39.5 percent. In the race for the open Position 2 seat, Anthony Broadman took 79 percent of the vote to August Paul Johnson’s 20 percent.
Kebler also noted that Livingston had raised almost $96,000, mostly from PACs, and more than double her $41,000.
“Thank you Bend, for electing me to be your next City Councilor,” Kebler said. “I look forward to planning for a sustainable future that brings prosperity and opportunity to all Bend residents.”
For Position 3, challenger Megan Perkins took the seat, with 52 percent of the vote to appointed incumbent Councilor Chris Piper’s 39 percent and Ron (Rondo) Boozell’s 8 percent.
Perkins issued a statement that said in part, “I’m honored to represent all voices of Bend, especially those that have been disenfranchised and overlooked. I want to thank my family for their support and all voters for engaging in the process. I look forward to getting to work for our city.”
Like Kebler, Perkins noted that her election shows "most money raised doesn't always equal a win," as she raised less than $40,000, less than one-third of Piper's $123,000.
And Rita Schenkelberg won the three-way race for open Position 4, with 57 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Michael Hughes and 10 percent for Anon (Bubba) Walters.
Two La Pine City Council seats were up for grabs, with D. Scott Henderson and Alisha Powell leading, 37 and 34 percent, and Cathi VanDamme third at 27 percent.
Redmond Mayor George Endicott won his seventh 2-year term, with 53 percent of the vote to Tanner Robertson’s 42 percent and Charles Baer’s 4 percent.
Three Redmond City Council at-large positions were on the ballot and went to former mayor Ed Fitch with nearly 17 percent as the top vote-getter, followed closely by Shannon Wedding and Clifford Evelyn Sr.
Three Sisters City Council positions went to incumbent Andrea Blum, with nearly 24 percent of the vote, and newcomers Jennifer Letz and Gary Ross.
Jefferson County Commissioner Wayne Fording defeated challenger Kim Schmith, 58 to 42 percent, while Jennifer Holcomb, Gary Walker and Austin Throop won three Madras City Council seats. Jake Schwab defeated Nancy Diaz in the race for Culver mayor, 54 to 45 percent.
Measure 16-96, requiring county commissioners to hold twice-a-year meetings to discuss joining what backers call “Greater Idaho,” was narrowly passing, 51 to 49 percent.