It was a very rough night for incumbents in Wasco County, and in particular for those on the Columbia Gorge Community College Board of Education.
The county’s voters were clearly in a mood to make changes, as all four CGCC incumbents seeking another term were swept out in the May 16 special election.
The jail measure, creating a permanent tax rate of 26 cents per $1,000 property valuation, was narrowly losing, down by just 11 votes of approximately 8,450 cast across four counties.
Although only about 28 percent of eligible voters in the county returned ballots, most of those who did vote wanted to see fresh faces on various boards.
Unofficial returns from the Wasco County Elections Office showed that CGCC Position 1 challenger Sarah Segal defeated two opponents — incumbent J. Carmen Gamez, and another challenger, Richard Wilcox.
Segal had 1,158 votes, 36.7 percent, against 1,025 (32.5 percent) for Wilcox and 963 votes (30.5 percent) for Gamez.
In CGCC Position 2, Dana Campbell got 1,779 votes, or 54.4 percent, versus incumbent James Willcox, who had 1,478 votes (45.2 percent).
In CGCC Position 5, Kim Morgan topped incumbent Ernie Keller. The unofficial tally showed Morgan with 1,786 votes, 54.5 percent, and Keller with 1,475 votes for 45.0 percent.
“I'd like to send out a big thanks to the community in Wasco County for their support, as well as to Dr. Ernie Keller for his many years of service to CGCC,” Morgan said.
“I'm looking forward to working with my fellow board members and the CGCC community.”
It was the same story with Position 7, as newcomer Kevin McCabe beat out longtime incumbent Charleen Cobb. McCabe had 1,623 votes, 52.2 percent, against Cobb’s 1,469 votes, 47.3 percent.
"I will continue to serve CGCC in the best way I possibly can, building programs that serve our students and our community," McCabe said in the wake of his victory.
The remaining victors in the CGCC race could not be reached for comment.
Wasco County voters also decided it was time for a fresh voice on the Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue Board of Directors, as incumbent John Willer fell to challenger Kathy Schwartz in the race for Position 2. Schwartz had 1,467 votes, 55.5 percent, to Willer’s 1,167 votes, 44.2 percent.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank my opponent, John Willer, for his past service on the board and for his willingness to continue serving,” Schwartz said upon learning of her victory.
“I also want to take this opportunity to thank the community for their support. My priority will be to meet with the fire chief for an orientation to the board duties and the department. I am thrilled to be a part of the MCFR team.”
Another incumbent fell in MCFR’s Position 4 contest, as Crystal Dodge lost her seat on the board. Challenger David Jacobs prevailed with 1,100 votes, 46.0 percent, against Dodge’s 650 votes (27.2 percent). A third candidate in the race, Cyndi Vipperman, had 631 votes for 26.4 percent.
“It looks like I will be a new member of the Mid-Columbia Fire District Board of Directors,” Jacobs said after the results came in.
“I would like to thank all those who voted for me and hope that I will be worthy of the trust the citizens of Wasco County have put in me.
“I am humbled and honored to be selected for this position, and will do my best to keep the district financially sound and viable into the future and continue to look for opportunities to improve on the service the fire district provides.”
One exception to the anti-incumbent trend came in the race for a seat on the North Wasco County Parks & Recreation District Board of Directors. In the one contested seat on the board, incumbent Annette Byers went against the tide and claimed a solid victory in her re-election bid with a tally of 1,481 votes, 67.9 percent, versus Daniel Polehn’s 694 votes, 31.8 percent.
“I’d like to congratulate Annette Byers on her victory,” Polehn said. “Thanks to everyone who took the time to consider the candidates and issues on the ballot, and voted in the special district election.”
There was no incumbent in the sole contested race for a seat on the Port of The Dalles Board of Commissioners. In that tight battle, Robert Wallace, who lives in Dufur, held a narrow lead of 13 votes over challenger Dawn Rasmussen of The Dalles in unofficial returns. Wallace had 1,327 votes, 50.0 percent, to Rasmussen’s 1,314 votes, 49.5 percent.
“I want to thank my opponent, Dawn Rasmussen, for all the great conversations over the past few weeks,” Wallace said. “We feel the Port District voters had two great candidates to choose from, and as you can see this was an extremely close race. I’m ready to learn more about the current mission of the Port and help move the ball forward.
“A few areas I would like to focus my attention on is a potential internship program; look at our agriculture resources and look for opportunities to further develop markets and local value-added processes, including potential specialty crops; and look for additional opportunities to assist and develop small businesses throughout the Port District. I really feel there are some great opportunities for the local area, I’d like to be a part of developing what the future may bring.”
“This was a great contest and I was competing against a very qualified candidate,” said Rasmussen. “I'm very honored by the number of votes I received. It was a very tight race – 13- vote difference the last time I checked -- which emphasizes why every single vote counts. Congratulations to Robert Wallace on a contest well won, and I look forward to supporting him and the rest of The Dalles community in every way possible.”
The jail measure was on the ballot in four counties — Wasco, Hood River, Sherman and Gilliam – and it was supported in three counties, but failed in Wasco County.
In unofficial results, there were 4,219 No votes against 4,208 Yes votes.
Sherman County voters supported the measure with 365 Yes votes (59.3 percent) against 251 No (40.8 percent). Hood River County voters gave it 1,831 Yes (53.4 percent) against 1,601 No (46.7 percent). In Gilliam County, it was 251 Yes (55.9 percent) and 198 No (44.1 percent).
In Wasco County, however, voters turned the measure down in a big way, with 2,169 voters (55.2 percent) saying No, versus 1,761 voting Yes (44.8 percent), enough to pull the entire measure down.
“I respect the will of the voters, but am disappointed that this vital public safety measure did not pass,” said Bryan Brandenburg, jail administrator.
The closeness of the race left the outcome in some level of doubt, however. According to Wasco County Clerk Lisa Gambee, there are some ballots still under review.
“Plus, we have some ballots coming from other counties,” Gambee said. “A ballot can be dropped in any county drop box before 8 p.m. (on Election Day) and it will be counted. A recount is triggered when there's less than one-fifth of 1 percent difference, but until all counties certify we won't know for sure if a recount will be needed.”