General election looms as 35 new votes keep incumbent below 50 percent

by: FILE PHOTO - Columbia County Commissioner Henry HeimullerThe addition of 35 previously uncounted votes into the unofficial tally in the razor-thin nonpartisan primary election for Columbia County commissioner Wednesday, May 28, took incumbent Commissioner Henry Heimuller a little bit further away from the outright majority he needs to avoid a general election in November.

Heimuller led his only official opponent, Wayne Mayo of Scappoose, by 58 votes after the Columbia County Elections Department updated its unofficial vote totals Wednesday. But the small batch of votes counted Wednesday actually broke for Mayo, who won 19 of the votes to 14 for Heimuller.

“The late-breaking ones are good for me,” Mayo said Wednesday, likening the result to his near-upset of another incumbent county commissioner in 2012. “That’s how it was when I ran against [Commissioner] Earl Fisher, too.”

Heimuller had nearly 49.9 percent of the vote when the county posted its previous unofficial final results last Wednesday, May 21. He was just 15 votes shy of an outright majority.

After this Wednesday’s update, Heimuller had 49.8 percent of the vote to an unchanged 49.3 percent for Mayo, and he appeared to be 19 votes shy of a majority.

The remainder of the votes — 94 in total, making up about 0.87 percent of the total vote in the commissioner race — were cast as write-ins.

Under Oregon law, if neither candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the race will go to a general election, according to Pam Benham, Columbia County elections supervisor.

If Heimuller or Mayo were to win a majority in the primary, they would be considered elected and a general election would not be held this year for the position.

Benham said Thursday morning she expects to next update the vote count on Wednesday, June 4, after the Tuesday deadline for voters who did not sign their ballots or whose signatures were challenged to come to the Elections Department in the Columbia County Courthouse and provide a signature.

“I did have four more people come in after I ran [this Wednesday’s update]. They came in and signed their ballots. So I know I have another four ballots to count,” Benham said.

Benham estimated she has as many as 60 ballots that must be signed by next Tuesday before they can be counted.

If the margin between the two candidates dwindles to 0.2 percentage points or closer, an automatic recount will be triggered. Otherwise, either candidate may request a partial or full recount for which he would have to pay, unless the outcome of the election were altered by the new count.

by: FILE PHOTO - Wayne MayoHeimuller did not respond Thursday to a call from the Spotlight about the election. But Mayo made it clear that after 2012, when he requested a partial recount that did not affect his narrow loss to Fisher, he has little interest in a potential recount.

“I would almost say it’d be a waste of time, a waste of money,” Mayo said.

Heimuller was first elected to the Board of County Commissioners in 2010, when he won a plurality of the vote in November. Mayo finished last in the three-way race that year.

Elections for county commissioner in Columbia County have since been changed to a nonpartisan system in which the top two vote-getters in the primary will be the only candidates nominated to the general election ballot, unless a candidate wins a majority of the vote in the primary.

The update in the vote count Wednesday did nothing to affect the outcome of other close races, such as the passage of a three-year operating levy to fund the Columbia County Jail and the failure of a general obligation bond measure sought by Columbia River Fire & Rescue.

The latest tally did push Republican congressional nominee Jason Yates of Newberg to a comparatively wider, seven-vote lead over Delinda Delgado Morgan of Gaston among Columbia County Republicans. Yates will face Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici for the right to represent Oregon’s First Congressional District, which includes all of Columbia County and several other counties, in November.

Yates led Morgan in Columbia County’s vote count last Wednesday by just two votes.

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