Forest Grove City Council vote coming down to the wire
As if this year hadn't yet been crazy enough, the 2020 election cycle has fallen right in line.
While the bulk of the country waited nearly five days for our next president to be named, Forest Grove — due to its own narrow voting margins — is waiting for the final results of its local elections.
As of the night of Nov. 9, it appears incumbents Tim Rippe and Elena Uhing have secured re-election, while fellow incumbent Adolph "Val" Valfre Jr. trails newcomer Donna Gustafson by the slimmest of margins. A fifth candidate, Don Giannetti, received 2,166 votes.
Rippe has 6,256 votes, Uhing has 5,869, while Gustafson (5,622) and Valfre (5,584) await the final count, with a recount still amongst the possible outcomes.
As of press time, 41 votes separate Gustafson and Valfre. That's very tight, but it isn't quite in automatic recount range, said Mickie Kawai, Washington County's elections manager. For that, the candidates would have to be within 22 votes of one another, as Oregon law states that a recount is triggered if the difference between two candidates is less than one-fifth of one percentage point of their combined vote share.
Valfre indicated Monday night, Nov. 9, that he sees the writing on the wall.
"While obviously disappointed, I fully trust the judgment of our (Forest Grove) electorate and will continue to support the council and the will of the people," Valfre said. "These are very challenging times with the concurrent impacts of the pandemic, recession, and increasing housing and income insecurity — and the council and mayor will increasingly need the support and good ideas of all our residents in the days and months ahead."
Gustafson, meanwhile, said she is "cautiously optimistic" about her prospects, and excited by the support she's already received.
"As far as the prospects of winning, I'm thrilled at the possibility," said Gustafson, who is the owner and operator of Bella Donna's Bistro and Patisserie, located on 21st Street in downtown Forest Grove. "But more than the excitement of winning, I am proud and humbled by the outpouring of not only votes from the people of Forest Grove, but the overwhelming support from complete strangers who've gone out of their way to personally reach out to me and show me their support."
Gustafson opened Bella Donna's Bistro and Patisserie last November after 30 years of working in project management in healthcare and information technology.
Valfre said he doesn't expect there to be a recount in the race. He reiterated his desire to see Forest Grove continue to move in a positive direction.
"All across this nation, this is a time for healing," Valfe said. "My sincere hope is that … my words can contribute toward that healing and spirit of unification so especially needed in our dear city."
Valfre was appointed to the Council in November 2017 to fill out the remaining term of Matt Vandehey, who moved out of the city.
He previously participated on the Forest Grove Advisory Committee for Affordable Housing. He has over 40 years of managerial experience at the county and federal levels, including as the housing director for Washington County, a position he held from 2008 to 2017, when he retired. Valfre also served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot and instructor, with combat service in Southeast Asia.
With his spot no longer in question, Rippe said he was first and foremost pleased with the voter turnout in Forest Grove, and "humbled by the support." He also praised the community and spoke to what he feels is a bright future for the town he's proud to represent.
"We are a growing and thriving community with so much character and potential that it is an exciting time to serve our residents," said Rippe, who received the most votes in the race. "We will come out of this pandemic and we will show the rest of the county the kind of resolve we have to unite and prevail, and I look forward to another term and working with the rest of the council to achieve our goals and objectives."
Uhing too was thankful for continued opportunity to serve, and similarly spoke to the importance of the weeks, months and years to come. Not simply in Forest Grove, but across the country.
"After 16 years of public service to our community, I am deeply honored and humbled the community trusted and supported me again," she said.
She spoke specifically to the fight for social justice, ongoing battle with COVID-19, economic hurdles, and an effort to unify a vastly divided nation. But ultimately she talked about the honor of once again representing the community of Forest Grove.
"I am privileged to be able to work with and for all community members," Uhing said, "Hear the strength of your voices and know 'Grovers' are at our finest when involved in this journey."
When all of the ballots are tallied, the results are submitted to the Oregon secretary of state for certification. Results must be certified by Dec. 3.
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