Big fundraising edge not enough for Hillsboro Republican
Appointed Sen. Janeen Sollman comfortably overcame a fundraising disadvantage of more than $800,000 to keep Oregon Senate District 15 blue.
Republican Carolina Malmedal raised nearly $1.1 million, much of it from political action committees tied to Nike Inc. billionaire Phil Knight, compared to $227,080 for Sollman.
The former House representative and Hillsboro School District board member had picked up 55.1% of the vote as of 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, Nov. 14, a lead of over 4,500 votes.
Sollman said she has been knocking on doors in the district since first running for school board in 2009, reaching around 13,600 this cycle.
"I think it came down to the doors," Sollman said. "The lopsided spending was crazy. I did not panic. I did not work to try to get more funds. We stuck with our plan we had from the beginning. We stuck to reaching out to the community."
Malmedal, owner of a plumbing and a luxury toilet rental business, touted herself as the candidate focused on law enforcement and crime. Billboards put up by her campaign in Hillsboro and Forest Grove suggested that voters could end crime and homelessness by electing Malmedal to the Senate.
However, Sollman picked up endorsements from the union representing state troopers. police chiefs and county sheriffs, as well as local endorsements from Hillsboro Police Chief Jim Coleman and Forest Grove Police Chief Henry Reimann.
Sollman also earned an endorsement from the business interests at the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
"I knocked on Republican doors as well, and I had some really fantastic conversations with Republicans that committed to voting for me," Sollman said. "I heard that voters don't like negativity. They want to hear about what you as a candidate will do. It was easy for me to say, 'Well, this is what I've done, these are the bills I'm working on, and this is the wide range of support behind me.'"
Senate District 15 covers Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Cornelius.
Despite the big cash gap in SD 15, the low-key race for House District 29 was actually a closer contest.
Rep. Susan McLain held onto House District 29, which covers Forest Grove, Cornelius and part of Hillsboro, with 52.8% of the vote. A little over 1,200 votes separate McLain from Republican nominee Gina Munster-Moore, who raised and spent little money on her campaign.
The House race was cheap compared to the Senate side. McLain's campaign raised nearly $93,000 compared to $23,208 for Munster-Moore.
While ballots are still being counted, both Sollman and McLain expressed concerns over a dip in voter turnout. Washington County elections officials told Pamplin Media Group they estimate about 60% of eligible voters cased ballots this election cycle. Turnout in November 2020 was almost 84%, and even in the last midterm election in 2018, it was about 10 points higher than it appears to be this year.
"It's very interesting and a little disappointing to look at our race and see we had so few people turn out. That's the worst turnout I've seen in my time in public office," McLain said. "There are little pockets that turned out and other pockets that are just crazy low. I'll be looking into political analysis about who voted and why. We need to look at that."
Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest unofficial results as of Monday evening, Nov. 14.
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