WashCo Chair Harrington has early lead over challenger
Early election results show that incumbent Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington has a lead over challenger Beach Pace, the Hillsboro City Councilor looking to unseat Harrington.
Unofficial election results show Harrington leads Pace with 54% of the vote. The gap has been slowly closing as data is updated, however, and Pace currently holds just over 44% of the vote, with about 7,800 votes separating her from Harrington.
Pace says she is not conceding the race and will continue to watch the vote county in the coming weeks.
"I am grateful for Oregon's inclusive and convenient vote by mail system and I applaud the postal workers and Washington County Elections Officials who will ensure all votes are accurately counted," Pace said in a midnight statement on election night. "Their processes and procedures protect our democracy, and I appreciate their hard work."
Election data is updated every hour on election night, and a new Oregon law means votes may still be being counted for weeks if they were postmarked by May 18.
With this being the first Oregon election to operate under this rule, Pace says she hopes the remaining votes will close the gap.
"I am hopeful that I have earned the support from a majority of voters in Washington County to secure a win in this election," Pace said.
Harrington is a former Metro Councilor, who represented District 4 for the full three terms allowed under the Metro Charter. She previously enjoyed a 22-year career in the tech industry as an engineer.
Harrington won her seat in 2018 in runoff election with former District 4 Commissioner Bob Terry. She did not return a call for comment in time for this report.
Pace, the chief executive of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Columbia Northwest and current Hillsboro City Councilor serving her first term, challenged Harrington for her seat.
The race has centered on the controversy surrounding the incumbent, Harrington,who faced allegations of creating a hostile work environment for county employees. This followed the contentious departure of her chief of staff last summer — resulting in a nearly $80,000 settlement by the county to avoid a lawsuit.
The county then paid $25,000 for an independent investigation into the allegations. County employees were granted anonymity to speak with investigator Michael Tom about the behaviors they witnessed from Harrington, describing incidents of retaliation and harassment that impacted the workplace and resulted in employees leaving the county.
Other accounts from the report described Harrington as "brilliant" and "good for the county," saying that her behavior has improved since these complaints first surfaced.
Following media reports of those details, several local unions and elected officials dropped their endorsements of Harrington. Others who supported Harrington's run in 2018 instead backed her opponent in this race, citing concerns over Harrington's leadership ability.
Still, Harrington currently holds a comfortable lead. She garnered the endorsement of the Washington County Democratic Party, even after attempts from within the ranks to undo the party's endorsement following the results of the county's investigation.
The County Chair position is non-partisan, though both candidates are registered Democrats and tout their progressive policies.
Certified election results will be published on June 13, according to the Washington County Elections Office.
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