Unofficial results from the Nov. 3 election indicate leadership changes at the city and county level.
Within St. Helens, unofficial results indicate two new faces are likely to join the city council: Patrick Birkle and Jessica Chilton. Birkle will replace Keith Locke, who decided not to run, in position 2 and Chilton will replace Ginny Carlson in position 4.
Having served on the budget committee with the city for six years, Birkle said he is ready to assume more responsibility and be a voice for the community.
“I’m humbled and honored to have won the election,” Birkle said. “As a councilor I will promise people I will listen, and I will listen to understand.”
Birkle was up against Mark Gundersen and received about 400 more votes than him. His priorities for the upcoming session revolve around public input, inclusion and engagement, he said.
He wants to bring a greater level of transparency to the council and city operations so residents have a better understanding and more active voice in determining how resources are used, he said.
Birkle said he has lobbied the council for years to try and change the schedule of the meetings. Currently, the council meets the first and third Wednesday of the month and has a work session at 1 p.m. with a regular session at 7 p.m. As a substitute teacher, Birkle said the schedule is not ideal, and also likely prevents others who work during the day from being involved in the discussions before the topics are voted on later that same evening.
“I think that does not provide sufficient time for citizens to provide their input between the work session and regular session,” he said. “I would like to have the council consider a longer time span between when the council is presented information and discusses it to give citizens more time to respond.”
At the county level, results indicate a change for one commission position and a second term for another. Results from the Nov. 3 election place incumbent Margaret Magruder 3,000 votes in the lead over challenger Brandee Dudzic for Columbia County Board of Commissioners, Position 1.
Magruder said she attributes her victory to voter confidence.
“They feel that I am dedicated and that I am working for the good of Columbia County and they have given the go-ahead to keep on going for the next four years.”
Magruder said her she is maintaining the priorities she has established as county commissioner.
“I have always been working for the good of the county,” she said, “helping to bring more jobs to the county, which means more revenue to provide services the county needs and desires.”
In the race for Columbia County Commission, Position 3, the unofficial results show challenger Casey Garrett with a lead of just over 1,000 votes over incumbent Alex Tardif.
Garrett said he was waiting to see the final unofficial results but he felt confident of victory.
“I don’t see how I could lose at this point, which is a good thing,” he said. “I am not taking any thing for granted, there are still votes left to count, but it is moving in the right direction. I am feeling pretty good about it.”
Garrett said he is now preparing to take office as a new county commissioner.
“I have a few months to get things in order before I take office but I am going hit the ground running,” he said.
Garrett said he will have three priorities as a Columbia County Commissioner.
“To work on consistently improving customer service, develop more recreation access to our public lands and other areas around the county, and to be a part of the team to promote good paying jobs in the county,” he said. “I look forward to a smooth transition.”
How Columbia County voted
Columbia County voters as a whole favored Republican candidates in state, national and district-wide races. A majority of voters chose Republican candidates in the partisan races, and voted against statewide results in each race.
In the presidential election, 53.24% of voters in the county voted for Donald Trump and 42.94% voted for Joe Biden. As a state, Oregon voters favored Joe Biden, who received 56.47% of the vote compared to Donald Trump who received 40.38%.
In the senate race, Columbia County favored Jo Rae Perkins, a Republican challenger to Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley. Perkins got 50.43% of the county’s vote and Merkley got 45.47%. Statewide, Oregonians voted to reelect Merkley who received 56.94% of the vote whereas Perkins had 39.34% of the state vote.
In the secretary of state race, Republican Kim Thatcher had 54.14% of the county’s vote to Democrat Shemia Fagan’s 39.21%. Statewide Fagan had 50.38% and Thatcher 43.21%.
Columbia County voted 51.10% for Republican Jeff Gudman over 40.79% for Democrat Tobias Read in the state treasurer race. Statewide results favored Read with 51.76% of votes compared to Gudman’s 41.49%.
Voters in the county preferred Republican Michael Cross in the race for state attorney general, giving him 52.36% of the vote compared to Democrat incumbent Ellen Rosenblum’s 44.07%. Across the state Rosenblum was retained with 56.02% of the vote compared to 41.34% for Cross.
Republican Christopher Christensen was more popular with Columbia County voters over Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, incumbent, in the U.S. House 1st Congressional District race. Christensen received 52.31% of the vote in Columbia County and Bonamici received 47.43%. The district includes portions of four counties (Clatsop, Columbia, Washington, Yamhill and Multnomah) and at large voted to reelect Bonamici with 64.6% of the vote and gave Christensen 35.2%.
Democratic incumbent Brad Witt received 46.15% of the county’s vote and Republican challenger Brian Stout received 53.72% in the race for state representative of the 31st District. Across the district, however, Witt narrowly bested Stout. Witt had 50.54% of the vote compared to Stout’s 49.31%
Columbia County election officials have 21 days from the Nov. 3 voting to certify the results.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the percentage of votes Bonamici received overall.
See a full rundown of the final unofficial county results printout attached to this story and other election news at thechronicleonline.com.