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Lake Oswego council gets a surprise

Hennagin, Jordan and Johnson appear to be the top 3 vote-getters
by: Submitted Photo, Johnson

It's a little like 1963, when Little Stevie Wonder's 'Fingertips' brought Motown's prodigy to black and white television, the boy who would sell one million records by the time he was 12 years old.

Except now it's 43 years later, Oregon and raining, and the Stevie Wonder-loving Kristin Johnson - Lake Oswego's 22-year-old political prodigy - hasn't sold a million on her skills yet, just the first several thousand in the city council elections.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Johnson was still holding onto the third city council position by a small lead she'd shown all night.

She is likely to join top vote-getter Roger Hennagin, a long-standing civic volunteer and attorney, and Donna Jordan, a veteran politician most notably of the Portland School Board, in taking the three open positions on the Lake Oswego City Council. Both Hennagin and Jordan were showing comfortable leads.

All five candidates in the race ran hard campaigns to be the favorites in the no-ward election, where the top three vote-earners emerge as city councilors. Jordan, Hennagin and Johnson were grateful to see early success Wednesday, acknowledging a close race and the appeal of each of the other candidates.

Hennagin by 5 p.m. Thursday netted 24 percent of the vote with 7,656 supporters.

'I thank the voters of Lake Oswego for the confidence they demonstrated in voting for me,' he said.

Hennagin said his campaign taught him much about the diversity of public opinion in Lake Oswego. He planned to chart a course as a councilor who would welcome all points of view.

Jordan, who garnered 7,134 votes as of 5 p.m. Thursday, thought her frank conversation with local voters earned her a spot on the council.

'I didn't try to tell them anything I didn't feel was really true,' she said, adding she also avoided pandering to special interests.

Jordan named city sewer issues as a top priority heading into this new phase of public service. For now, she said, immediate plans included removing lawn signs locally, keeping step with the city's stringent sign code.

Johnson, too, was taking down campaign signs the morning after elections. Her grandmother's years-ago prediction that she would one day be the first woman president was slowly edging a step closer to reality and making for a quiet slip in the usual stride of Lake Oswego politics.

Polls showed Johnson leading former Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors president J.T. Tenneson by 296 votes Thursday evening with 6,347 supporters.

Tenneson may still pull ahead in the election but had embraced the possibility of a fourth-place finish Wednesday.

'I think Kristin ran a hell of a race and both Roger and Donna did as well and I think Lake Oswego is in good hands with those three,' he said.

Johnson also cleared Douglas Reiter, a long-time businessman who converted local concern about spending and lake issues into a support base. Reiter won 4,168 votes in the race.

Johnson campaigned on her urban planning education and a mission to make Lake Oswego affordable for returning collegians. She said she thought her young age, at times viewed as a disadvantage, proved her greatest asset.

'I think that people were excited to get a younger voice on city council. I think part of it was that I was young and interested and I brought something new,' she said.

While other candidates made rounds in neighborhoods and appearances at civic events, Johnson added talks with high school students and tapped same-age voters and a network of friends and family for strength.

If that success holds, she will join Hennagin and Jordan to replace outgoing city councilors Jack Hoffman, Gay Graham and Lynn Peterson in January.

Peterson opted to leave the city council after a single term to run for a position on the Clackamas County Commission - votes were still being tallied in that race Wednesday. Hoffman and Graham have been phased out by term limits.

The remaining members of the Lake Oswego City Council include John Turchi, Ellie McPeak, Frank Groznik and Mayor Judie Hammerstad. They will mix with incoming city councilors in early 2007 to set goals for the next two years of city business.