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Election Recap and Look to November

By Richard Emmons

The May 17 election resulted in a November run-off for county commissioner between John West and Brian DeLaGrange, voters repealing the county code enforcement ordinance and voters saying “No” to a ballot question about moving Josephine County to the state of Idaho. Josephine County Counsel Wally Hicks ran unopposed and was reelected with 16,458 votes.

Statewide voter turnout was 37.2% with 1,097,654 Oregonians casting a ballot out of 2,948,373 active registered voters.

In Josephine County, voter turnout was 41.5% with 28,923 county voters casting a ballot out of 69,641 active registered voters.

Josephine county commissioner

In the commissioner’s election, top vote-getters were John West with 36.0% (9,360 votes), Brian DeLaGrange with 31.4% (8,157) and Gary Richardson with 18.4% (4,773). Five other candidates received 3,694 votes, or 14.2% of the total.

Required to be elected in the primary election outright is 50% plus one vote. The November run-off between John West and Brian DeLaGrange offers voters a choice between candidates with very different backgrounds and political perspectives.

John West emphasized his 30 years’ experience running businesses and his familiarity with county operations from his wildfire fighting and land development businesses. Brian DeLaGrange emphasized his experience on the Grants Pass City Council and the Grants Pass District 7 School Board.

Code enforcement ordinance repealed

This measure was worded so that a “Yes” vote repealed the code enforcement ordinance and a “No” vote favored the ordinance. It was repealed by a 55.3% to 44.7% vote. The ordinance would have allowed county employees to assess fines on property owners out of compliance with county enforcement codes. While applicable to all property owners in the county (outside city limits), it would have added another way to target illegal marijuana and hemp growers.

The commissioners were interviewed on KAJO radio about the repeal of the enforcement ordinance. None expressed interested in bringing a replacement ordinance back to the voters in the near term.

Commissioner Dan DeYoung said, “Am I going to do it again? I don’t think so.” Commissioner Herman Baertschiger said, “When the citizens shoot something down you don’t come back and shove it down their throats.”

Commissioner Darin Fowler said, “It would be a few years, and it would have to look a little different in my mind. We still have things that we can do to combat these illegal grows, and we’re doing them. That was going to give us another sharper tool in the toolbox. And once the community speaks, like Herman said, you don’t want to go back for a few years. Before we go back, what happens to the illegal grows? Is it still continuing three or four years from now? Or is it going down? And so we’ll have to see what happens with that.”

Greater Idaho question

On the question of whether or not to move Josephine County to Idaho, 48.6% of Josephine County voters said “Yes.” However, 51.3% of voters felt differently and voted “No” on this ballot question.

Douglas County voters also voted against authorizing the county to spend money to lobby the state and federal governments to change boundaries. The measure failed there by a 47.4 to 52.7% vote.

Klamath County voters supported the Greater Idaho project, 57% to 43%.

The Greater Idaho question can be placed on the ballot again by the Board of County Commissioners. Or supporters can collect petition signatures as was done for the repeal of the code enforcement ordinance.

Will Josephine County voters change their mind in the future? Possibly, if they grow weary of policy experiments coming out of Salem and Portland – like 2020’s Measure 110, which decriminalized drugs like LSD, meth and heroin. Also, on the November 2022 ballot, Oregon voters will vote on the “Oregon Right to Healthcare Amendment.” If passed, the Oregon Constitution would require the state “ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.”

Only time will tell if Josephine County’s “No” vote was really a “Not yet” vote to move the county to Idaho.

Governor’s race

The Republican race for the governorship had 17 candidates from which to choose. When the dust settled, former Oregon House minority leader Christine Drazan prevailed with 22.6% of Republican voters. Statewide results:

  • Christine Drazan: 85,053 (22.56%)
  • Bob Tiernan: 65,914 (17.48%)
  • Stan Pulliam: 40,975 (10.87%)
  • Bridget Barton: 40,731 (10.80%)
  • Bud Pierce: 32,917 (8.73%)
  • Marc Thielman: 29,942 (7.94%)
  • Kerry McQuisten: 28,601 (7.58%)
  • Other candidates and write-in: 52,944 (18.94%)

In Josephine County, there were 14,117 votes cast for Republican candidates:

  • Christine Drazan: 3,439 (24.36%)
  • Bob Tiernan: 3,039 (21.53%)
  • Bridget Barton: 1,755 (12.43%)
  • Marc Thielman: 1,108 (7.85%)
  • Stan Pulliam: 1,090 (7.72%)
  • Kerry McQuisten: 1,012 (7.17%)
  • Other candidates and write-in: 2,674 (18.94%)

On the Democratic side, former House Speaker Tina Kotek received 274,456 (56.1%) of votes cast with runner-up Oregon Treasurer Tobias Reed garnering 155,457 (31.8%.) The other 13 Democratic candidates and write-in votes received 12.1% of the vote (59,612 votes.)

In Josephine County, Democrat Tina Kotek received 3,097 (44.09%) local votes with runner-up Tobias Read receiving 2,629 (37.43%). Other candidates and write-in votes received 1,298 votes (18.48%).

The 2022 governor’s race may be historic and will definitely be interesting. Gov. Kate Brown cannot run due to term limits, which helps the party out of power. The last Republican to be elected Oregon governor was Victor Atiyeh who won reelection against future Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 1982 with 61.6% of the vote.

Another twist to this election is former Democrat Betsy Johnson who is running as a nonpartisan independent candidate. She has raised millions of dollars to promote her campaign and collect the approximately 23,750 valid signatures needed to have her name on the November ballot. Johnson has been endorsed by Democratic former Gov. Kulongoski and former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican.

Oregon House of Representatives

In District 3, Republican Rep. Lily Morgan received 7,897 votes. In November she’ll face challenger Democrat Brady Keister who received 3,993. Both ran unopposed in their primary races.

In District 4, Republican Rep. Christine Goodwin received 7,931 votes. She ran unopposed in her primary race and will also run unopposed in November because no Democrat ran in the Democratic primary.

United States Senate

Sen. Ron Wyden won the Democratic primary with 88.83% of the 493,357 votes cast. He will face Jo Rae Perkins who defeated six other Republicans in the primary contest. Results:

  • Jo Rae Perkins: 115,328 (33.03%)
  • Darin Harbick: 107,228 (30.71%)
  • Sam Palmer: 42,572 (12.19%)
  • Jason Beebe: 39,328 (11.26%)
  • Other and write-in: 44,702 (12.8%)

U.S. House of Representatives

Oregon’s 2nd District: Rep. Cliff Bentz won the Republican nomination with 75.01% of the 89,065 votes cast. He will face Joe Yetter who won the Democratic nomination with 69.09% of 40,150 votes cast.

Oregon’s 4th District: Republican Alek Skarlatos received 58,482 votes to secure the Republican nomination. He ran unopposed. He will face former BOLI Commissioner Val Hoyle who won the Democratic nomination with 63.54% of the 88,293 votes cast. Hoyle defeated seven other challengers, including Doyle Canning who finished second with 16.11%.

Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI)

Democratic labor attorney Christina Stephenson will face former Rep. Cheri Helt, a Republican, in a November runoff to choose Oregon’s next labor commissioner. Stephenson received 47.18% of the vote, while Helt received 19.15% of the votes for this nonpartisan position. Remaining candidates and write-in votes received 33.57% of the 890,772 votes cast.

This will be the first runoff in 10 years for the position of labor commissioner. BOLI made national news in 2013 when a BOLI administrative law judge fined a Christian-owned bakery $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The bakery is no longer in business. The fine was overturned in January 2022, but the case remains in litigation over the issue of religious liberty for business owners.

For complete election results, go to the Josephine County Clerk webpage:

Richard Emmons is the Publisher and Editor of the Josephine County Eagle.