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UPDATE: Sonya Fischer, Libra Forde pull closer to leaders Ben West and Paul Savas as count continues; ballot error likely to delay final results from May 17 primary election until June

Clackamas County Commissioner Sonya Fischer increased her share of the early count of votes from 34% to over 36% on Wednesday as ballots continue to be slowly counted over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, fellow Democrat Libra Forde, who is challenging Commissioner Paul Savas in a separate county board race, was bolstered from 20% to nearly 23% after another day of ballot counting. While county commission races are technically nonpartisan, Forde is being supported by Democrats to unseat the incumbent Republican.

Ben West, a Wilsonville city councilor and nurse who previously ran as a Republican for Congress, held a early lead with 47% of votes, but his lead slipped to 45% by the end of counting on Wednesday. His lead is eroding in later counts, as more Democratic voters who are more likely to support the incumbent were affected by the ballot-barcode issue.

The newcomer still led Fischer, an attorney and former legislative director in her first full term on the board after being appointed in 2017 to replace Jim Bernard.

With their lessening leads, Savas and West will not get more than 50% of the final tally to avoid a November runoff election with the candidate getting the second-most number of votes in each race.

Final results will likely not be confirmed until June following Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall's announcement earlier this month that an unknown number of ballots printed for the May 17 primary election have blurred barcodes.

Clackamas County's initial voter turnout was low in the election, with only 21% of voters turning in their ballots by the Monday before the election. A large wave of additional ballots came in on election day and trickling in with postmarks in the following week, with total turnout expected over 35%. Nearly 47% of registered voters in the county returned their ballots in the 2020 presidential primary election, compared with nearly 29% in the 2018 midterm primary election, over 50% in 2016 and about 31% in 2014.

Savas, a longtime local business owner who would be entering his fourth term in the nonpartisan role since unseating Bob Austin in 2010, currently holds 41.78% of the vote, down from his 43% on election night. Forde is a nonprofit leader and chair of the North Clackamas School Board. Following Savas and Forde in the running for Position 2 are truck driver Steve Frost with 12.95% of votes, electrician Bill Osburn with 12.57% of votes and local business owner Mark Robert Johnson with 9.74% of votes.

Sandy realtor Dana Hindman-Allen was third in the Fischer race with 15% of votes, and Amazon employee Evan Geier got less than 3% of votes.

Savas has raised approximately $95,360 towards his campaign thus far, with roughly $70,310 in expenditures, according to state filing records. His supporters include the Clackamas County Peace Officers Association, the regional Home Builders Association, state Sens. Bill Kennemer and Chuck Thomsen, and seven mayors in the county, per his website.

He has strongly opposed state efforts to toll I-205 as a member of multiple regional transportation boards. He told Pamplin Media Group he intends to continue advocating for affordable housing and jobs as well as equity for the county's underserved populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forde's campaign has raised roughly $138,580 this campaign cycle and spent nearly $105,180, state records show. She's received backing fom the Oregon Trail Democrats and several community-specific organizations such as the Black Caucus of county Democrats, as well as support from state Sens. Kathleen Taylor and Rob Wagner and six state representatives, according to her website.

Forde said a key priority of hers is advocating for future generations, which she stated to Pamplin Media Group would include a focus on access to education, housing, climate issues, addiction, affordability, and bringing new perspectives to the board as the first Black woman on the county board if elected.

West's campaign has raised around $56,400 with approximately $56,720 in expenditures, per state records. Supporters of his campaign include the ??Peace Officers Association and two county mayors, per his website.

He told Pamplin Media Group that he aims to bring an independent perspective as well as the experience of a practicing health care worker to the board, additionally advocating for lower taxes and no tolls on I-205.

Fischer's campaign during this cycle has raised the most out of commission candidates for either position thus far at approximately $234,100, with about $213,160 in expenditures, according to state filing records.

Her supporters include Congressman Kurt Schrader, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, state Sen. Kayse Jama and six state representatives, as well as the Home Builders Association, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council and other labor unions, per her website.

Fischer told Pamplin Media Group that she prioritizes being a voice for residents and looks to continue pushing for increased public access to a network of resources serving community needs related to safety, housing, health, family justice, economic opportunities and more if reelected.

Hindman-Allen has raised roughly $17,930 and spent $16,635 during this campaign cycle, state records show. Among her campaign's supporters are Thompson and Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine, her website reports.

A former substitute teacher and educational assistant for the Oregon Trail School District, Hindman-Allen lists among her top priorities advocating for various health and medical freedoms.

Following the ballot error, over 50,000 ballots with barcode issues are being manually copied by hand, potentially leading to upwards of an extra $100,000 cost to the county, but will eventually lead to results that voters can trust, as previously reported.

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