Race too close to call in the race for Board of Commissioners between incumbent Stan Primozich and challenger Casey Kulla

From the perspective of local races, results from the May 15 primary election provided little in the way of surprises with incumbents holding sway in county and state legislature campaigns.Kulla

The one race too close to call as of May 16 was for Position 1 on the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners. As of that morning incumbent Stan Primozich held less than a percentage point lead over challenger Casey Kulla, 32.66 percent (6,482 votes) to 31.74 percent (6,299 votes) with 19,844 votes cast. Jason Yates earned 22.32 percent and Josh Rojas 13.04 percent of the vote.

However, the results for that race remained consistent and Primozich and Kulla will face off in the general election in November under the state requirement that to win outright a candidate must garner a minimum of 50 percent plus one vote.Primozich

"This might surprise you, but the emotion I experienced was not surprise, but rather gratitude for all those voters who supported me, by talking to their friends, by writing letters of support, by publicly endorsing me, by contributing money … by hosting signs, by attending public events," Kulla said in an email. "I realized, in the course of this campaign, that no candidate wins on their own. Just like our farm business, success is a community effort."

"I'm very grateful to all my supporters who acknowledged my hard work by voting for me in the primary," Primozich said in an email. "I can only hope that my dedicated service and my record of accomplishments will win the majority of voters in the November election."

The opponents said they will approach campaigning differently for the fall general election, with Primozich concentrating on his job as commissioner while Kulla gathers together support for his campaign.

"I plan to continue my efforts toward improving transit and transportation, workforce development and affordable housing, and increased growth in business and tourism," Primozich said.

"I am in the planning stages for the next phase, but it will involve reaching out to organizations like Unidos Bridging Communities and the West Valley Revitalization Committee, registering for all of the county's parades and festivals, seeking union help for printing and canvassing, researching which precincts I need to focus on now, reaching out to Josh Rojas and Jason Yates voters, continuing to listen and ask questions of our county's elected officials and engaged voters, and engaging disenfranchised residents …," Kulla said.

As of last week neither the incumbent nor the challenger had delved into the election on a precinct-by-precinct basis, but both had opinions on why their candidacies had appealed to those who had voted for them.

"I serve all areas of Yamhill County with the same energy and dedication," Primozich said. "It is my goal to prove that with my actions."

"I think that my message of farmer, rural resident and scientist has resonance throughout the county …," Kulla said. "This is a race that is asking the question, 'Do you want to bring change to the board and county government?' The wonderful thing about a nonpartisan race is that we get to focus on issues that are important to county residents, rather than facing the rancorous and divisive litmus tests that legislative candidates must answer."

The candidates assigned their success in the race to different attributes.

"I think that all three challengers had unique messages and unique groups of voters who were looking for a particular vision of change in county governance," Kulla said. "The success of our campaign is based upon … gratitude to all those folks who stepped up and supported it by talking with friends, donating lots of money, speaking out publicly, hosting signs, etc."

"I believe people recognize that I have kept my 2014 campaign promises," Primozich said. "I have built significant relationships within the state of Oregon and on a national basis with decision makers who can and have helped to bring resources to Yamhill County that better the lives of our citizens now and in the future."

Starrett wins another term

Incumbent Mary Starrett earned more than 61 percent of the 20,050 votes cast on May 15 to easily outdistance challengers Chelsey Williams (24.11 percent) and David Wall (14.47 percent). As such, Starrett has won outright and will not face a challenger in the fall.

Race for judge will continue to the fall

The other county race of note, that to replace retiring Judge Ronald Stone on the Yamhill County Circuit Court, will go to a runoff in the fall as well. In the five-person race for the bench, county deputy district attorney Lisl Miller earned a comfortable 33.85 percent win over the No. 2 vote-getter in the race, McMinnville attorney Jennifer Chapman (24.62 percent). Attorneys Mark Pihl (11.29 percent), J. Mark Lawrence (15.86 percent) and Carol Fredrick (14.07 percent) rounded out the rest of the field and won't be part of the runoff in the November general election.Miller

"With five candidates that were overall highly qualified, and predicted low voter turnout, I expected the race to be close," Miller said. "I was humbled and honored to come out over 9 points ahead."

"We knew that each of the other candidates had impressive resumes that would appeal to their distinct bases of support," Chapman said. "Our campaign was focused on appealing to as many different people as we could, including groups of people that often feel confused about, or neglected by, the court system. We are confident that, as we move toward the general, that approach will be a major benefit and we will continue to broaden our base."Chapman

Both Miller and Chapman said they would use similar tactics in the run-up to the fall election.

"My plan between now and the general election is to get out and meet as many people as I can," Miller said. "I want to make a personal connection with the people I will serve, tell them one-on-one why they should vote for me, and answer any questions they may have."

"My plan is to continue to talk to as many voters as I can," Chapman said. "Most voters do not realize that three of the four judges on the bench already are former prosecutors. They also do not think about the important work that the courts do in civil cases every day, such as work on child support, landlord tenant, land use, business disputes, and more. We have found that when you talk about these things with voters, they really come to appreciate why I entered into the race."

Neither candidate for judge had scrutinized the election on a precinct-by-precinct basis, but both have opinions on why their candidacy appealed to those who voted for them.

"I'm thrilled with the current results that out of 22 precincts, I won 20, tied one and lost just one (Lafayette, by nine votes)," Miller said. "I think my message resonated across the county because residents of towns and rural areas alike recognize that experience and a record of integrity and pursuing justice are key qualities for a judge."

"My message seemed to resonate fairly consistently everywhere, including in places that I did not have time to talk to as many voters," Chapman said. "As we move forward to the general election, I look forward to getting into most of those areas and meeting as many voters as I can."

The pair attributed their success in the race to different reasons.

"Much of my success in the primary can be traced to (Newberg-Dundee Police) Chief Brian Casey, District Attorney Brad Berry and the numerous law enforcement officers who endorsed me," Miller said. "I also received the endorsements of community leaders across the county who worked tirelessly to help me."

"I think from the very beginning, I have been a unique but relatable candidate with a clear message that resonates with people," Chapman said. "I also think that voters appreciate the breadth and varied experience that I offer. I have litigated cases in circuit courts throughout the state, in the federal and bankruptcy courts, and in our appellate courts." 

Legislative races

In the race for Senate District 13, held for the past two terms by Kim Thatcher, Paul Diller enjoyed a 51.95 to 47.44 percent win over Sarah Grider in the Democratic primary. As such, Diller will face Thatcher in the fall primary. Thatcher didn't face a challenger in the GOP primary.

House District 25 state Rep. Bill Post will face Democratic challenger Dave McCall in the fall as neither had an opponent in the primary. House District 24 state Rep. Ron Noble also didn't face a challenger in the primary and the Democrats didn't produce a candidate, so the retired police chief will enjoy a second term in the Legislature starting in January.

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