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PRIMARY COLORS

As the Clinton-Obama horserace continues, Oregon's May election could really count
by: Chase Allgood, Grace Dinsdale and Maureen Edward

For the first time he can remember, Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon is rooting for Hillary Clinton.

Gordon, who's a registered Republican, is hoping that if the race between Barack Obama and Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination continues to boil, Oregon's May 20 primary election will draw a record turnout.

That could help his office's effort to renew a funding levy that would provide increased police service to unincorporated areas of Washington County.

Since Oregon's rules require at least 50 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the race in order for any verdict to count.

Gordon is confident that most voters will back the levy - but as Forest Grove learned last May, a big majority vote on a levy can fall flat if the masses fail to mail in their ballots.

That's why Gordon is pulling for Clinton in next month's Pennsylvania primary, hoping to keep the horserace at full speed as it heads to Oregon nine weeks from now.

'I haven't traditionally voted with the Democratic Party,' Gordon said, 'but I hope she does well in Pennsylvania.'

Gordon's not the only one caught up in the presidential race.

Whether die-hard or reluctant, Democrats like Grace Dinsdale, a Cornelius Clinton booster, and Maureen Edward, a Gaston Obama backer, are excited that their votes - and the contributions - will still matter in May.

Even those whose favorite candidates are out of the money still seem particularly engaged this year. Ellen and Laird Hastay of Forest Grove, for example, gave more than $3,000 to Democratic hopeful Dennis Kucinich last year. They knew he was a long shot to get the nomination, but hoped to fuel his populist campaign message. They've switched their allegiance to Obama even though, in their words, 'he's no Kucinich.'

On the other side of the political divide, William Eckersley of Laurelwood had hoped to be voting for Mike Huckabee in the Oregon Republican primary.

He was excited enough by Huckabee's conservative message to donate $545 to the campaign before the former Arkansas governor withdrew from the race.

'He demonstrated the values I have,' said the 64-year-old retiree. 'He's on the right side of all the issues. He's a Christian, a firm believer in the second amendment, the Constitution and life.'

Eckersley is now backing Republican John McCain. But, he adds, 'I still have a Huckabee sticker on my bumper, and it's not coming off.'

Additional reporting by Frankie Guros