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Kulongoski retains the reins as governor

by: Jaime Valdez, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski waves to supporters at Democratic headquarters at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland Tuesday evening.

Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski declared victory over Republican opponent Ron Saxton Tuesday evening after Saxton conceded defeat at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland.

As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Kulongoski had 584,149 votes, or 50 percent of the statewide vote. Saxton had 507,315 votes or 43 percent.

As the Republican crowd in the Hilton's Grand Ballroom began to thin at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Saxton, an attorney and former Portland school board member, called Kulongoski to wish him the best during the next four years.

Sounding a customary note of bipartisanship, Saxton thanked the crowd, his campaign crew and his wife, Lynne, who is the director of the Christie School.

Soon after, Kulongoski addressed a room full of jubilant supporters at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland, thanking Democratic supporters for electing him to a second term.

'We are entering a great era of great possibility for our state,' he said. 'We have regained our footing after some tough economic times. There is a spring in our step now, and I sense a new confidence in our ability to move forward.'

The mezzanine-level ballroom in the downtown Benson Hotel was packed with Democratic legislators, party workers, activists and well-wishers, including Portland Mayor Tom Potter - a registered Democrat - and former City Commissioner Jim Francesconi.

The crowd grew larger and happier as the night progressed, with loud cheers going up as the national television news stations announced more and more Democrats winning Congressional seats on big-screen TVs placed throughout the room.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, electrified the room around 8:30 p.m. by announcing that Democrats had taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Many in the crowd waved blue and white 'Speaker Pelosi' signs, showing their support for California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who will be the next U.S. House Speaker, the first woman to hold the powerful position.