Incumbents leading in Forest Grove City Council race
Forest Grove voters marking their ballots appear to have decided to stay the course with their members of the City Council.
All three incumbent councilors up for re-election — Tom "TJ" Johnston, Ron Thompson and Malynda Wenzl — are in position for another four-year term, unofficial results as of late Tuesday night, Nov. 6, show.
The top vote-getter is Wenzl, with 20.9 percent of the vote. Johnston ran in second with 19.8 percent, with Thompson running in third with 17.5 percent.
Karen Reynolds, who appeared on the ballot and in the voters' pamphlet despite announcing her withdrawal from the race more than a month before Election Day, sits in fourth place with 16.2 percent as of press time, according to unofficial results. Reynolds is running ahead of both challengers who ran active campaigns, Devon Downeysmith (14.9 percent) and Solomon Clapshaw (9.8 percent).
The strong showing for Reynolds, who withdrew from the race to focus on her family's health, is surprising. The outcome with all three incumbents appearing to win re-election is less so.
Thompson noted that a recent survey and focus group of city residents found broad satisfaction with how Forest Grove's city government is doing. He is not surprised by the outcome, he said.
"That was at least an indicator to me," he said.
Thompson said he expects his margin of victory to hold up — he's running nearly a point and a half ahead of Reynolds, according to the unofficial 8 p.m. returns — but said, "If it doesn't, it doesn't."
Johnston is feeling good about his chances, he told the News-Times.
"We've done some pretty good things in the city to keep it going," Johnston said of the current council.
Forest Grove voters are poised to head back to the polls next year, if the City Council approves a ballot measure asking for voter approval of bonds for a new police station. Johnston said that decision will be an important one as Forest Grove continues to grow.
Wenzl was the top vote-getter out of a field of seven candidates when she first ran for City Council four years ago. Johnston and Thompson, meanwhile, are longtime incumbents; they were seeking their fifth terms as city councilors this fall.
Wenzl could not be reached for comment on the election results.
The results are unofficial and could change as remaining votes are tallied. However, if they hold, that will mean voters chose to pass over two intriguing political newcomers in Downeysmith and Clapshaw.
A senior at Forest Grove High School, Clapshaw filed to run for City Council before his 18th birthday, which was less than two months ago. He was one of two students responsible for hanging a divisive banner that read "Build a Wall" in the FGHS cafeteria in 2016, when he was a high school freshman. Clapshaw wrote an anonymous apology letter after the incident but did not speak publicly about his role until last month, in a News-Times article.
A city volunteer and marketing consultant who has worked on political campaigns in Oregon, including this year's "No on 105" campaign against Ballot Measure 105, Downeysmith got an early jump on election season by setting up a campaign website and beginning to collect endorsements from community figures months before the candidate filing period opened. She and Wenzl endorsed one another in the race.
A fluent Spanish speaker whose first language is English, Downeysmith tried to appeal to Forest Grove's Latino residents during her campaign. She delivered a portion of her opening statement at a candidate forum last month in Spanish and said she would use her position to be an advocate for Spanish-speaking residents.
Mayor Pete Truax, running without an opponent on the ballot, easily won re-election, as expected.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Johnston and Thompson, as well as with midnight election results.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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