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Candidates take a wild ride on this election night

One-vote leads, upset incumbents, ballot chaos make 2014 memorable


Malynda Wenzl’s surprising domination of the Forest Grove City Council race wasn’t the only fascinating feature of last week’s election.

At one point, the two candidates battling it out for the third open council seat — incumbent Ron Thompson and challenger Tom Beck — were separated by only a single vote.

“It’s weird, but it’s OK,” said Beck, who reported that a friend confessed to accidentally dropping off his ballot in the mailbox instead of the ballot box on election day.

Wednesday night it looked like that absent-minded error might have made the difference in the race, but by Friday, after more ballots were counted, Beck had fallen behind, securing the spot for Thompson.

“I like the Planning Commission. I like the Budget Committee,” Beck said of the posts he already holds. “Congrats to Ron. Life goes on.”

Tom Johnston, the other incumbent in the council race, also won re-election.

Meanwhile, in the mayor’s race, challenger Tim Marble came surprisingly close to unseating incumbent Mayor Pete Truax, at one point separated by slightly more than 1 percent of the vote. Totals as of Monday gave Truax 50.37 percent of the vote with 3,378 votes and Marble 48.73 percent with 3,268 votes.

Marble said a friend had bet him that he’d come within 100 votes of Truax.

Truax said he was amused by how close it was. “I didn’t think it would be that close, but a win’s a win.”

In another surprise, Democratic challenger Chuck Riley might have upset the race for state senator in Oregon’s 15th district, leading longtime Republican incumbent Bruce Starr Monday with 17,930 votes and 45.62 percent of the vote (compared to Starr’s 17,709 votes and 45.06 percent).

With 53.65 percent of the vote, Democrat Susan McLain beat Mark Richman in the race to be state representative of House District 29.

In Gaston, City Councilor Tony Hall defeated fellow Councilor Richard Sager in the race for mayor, drawing 91 votes to Sager’s 58.

And two annexation measures in Banks passed, adding roughly 200 acres inside the city limits.

The election process itself was more chaotic this year than longtime vote counters John and Mary Welch of Forest Grove can ever remember.

The couple said they normally wrap up their vote-counting duties by 4 a.m. Wednesday — eight hours after the polls close. This time, they didn’t finish until 6 a.m. and were then asked to return the next day to resume counting.

That’s never happened before, said the Welches, who have volunteered on election night for a dozen years.

The problem was a ballot mix-up in a Hillsboro council race, which required volunteers to count supplemental ballots in addition to the original ballots.

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