Paul Blackburn will be the next mayor of Hood River, defeating Greg Colt by a 2-to-1 margin in the Nov. 4 General Election.
“I felt like my message was resonating. I was talking a lot about this great town we all love,” said Blackburn, a former city council member. “People said, ‘yeah, we do love this place. Let’s make sure it stays in the right track.’ I heard from people that they like thoughtful, inclusive leadership and about (my goal of) being mayor for all of us. I think people liked that.”
Legislative incumbents Mark Johnson and Chuck Thomsen, both Republicans, earned new terms, and while both won by comfortable margins in their districts overall.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Hood River won a ninth term by a 71 to 26 percent margin over Democrat Aelea Christofferson. In Hood River County, Walden took 55 percent of the vote to Christofferson’s 42 percent.
Johnson’s Democratic challenger, Stephanie Nystrom of Corbett, defeated Johnson by a narrow margin in Hood River County and by a 61 to 39 percent margin in Hood River city precincts. Johnson is also a long-time Hood River County School District board member.
Advancing to Hood River City Council are Becky Brun, who took 20 percent of the vote in the seven-person race, Susan Johnson with 17 percent, and Peter Cornelison with 15.5 percent.
Colt said Thursday this would be his last attempt at public office.
“I had solutions to the problems, he skirted those and yet he got elected,” Colt said of Blackburn. “My problem is I say what is on my mind. I don’t think most people who voted know me. I’m not sure they got the message.
I think they voted because they were told to by party leaders.”
Blackburn responded, “I did have the Hood River County Democratic committee endorsement, and two-thirds of the city,” noting the endorsement came on Nov. 3, one day before the election.
“I can check off my bucket list. I ran for public office,” Colt said. “It was fun. It was good to have the support of the people I did have support of, good to have people come and say what a good mayor they thought I’d make.”
Blackburn said he is eager to get started. “I continue getting my arms around all the situations, just today I learned about a new situation I had not been aware of. There is lot to it, I’ve had my toe in it, and I’m excited to dive in.”
The Hood River councilors are all first-time electees, and while Johnson terms herself a “newbie,” Brun and Cornelison are experienced activists. Brun and Cornelison ran as two-thirds of the Sustainability PAC ticket along with Tim Counihan, who came in a close fourth place.
“I’m disappointed Tim didn’t make it. He brings a lot of expertise I’m disappointed not to have,” said Brun, a writer.
Brun said she has gotten to know Susan Johnson during the campaign and said “she will bring a good perspective to the campaign.”
“I’m tired, but glad the time has come,” Johnson said. “It’s very exciting to have a positon like this so I can represent the community, and also get to know some other people and work on the issues. I need to get studied up, but I have two months before swearing in and I’ll be ready.”
In Cascade Locks, Bobby Walker won a write-in vote for a vacant City Council seat, with 51 votes to Buzzy Nielsen’s 24. Mayor Tom Cramblett, and councilors Deanna Busdieker, Jeff Helfrich, and Richard Randall all ran unopposed.
A third term for State Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) came with a rocky response from his home county.
“I’m gratified to have a chance to serve for a third term. It’s always nice to have support from across the district,” he said.
Asked about his loss in Hood River county and city, Johnson said,” I don’t think there’s any question being a school board member in Hood River County draws some opposition from certain segments of our school district, i.e. the employees. Being a school board member and legislator has its pluses and minuses.”
Nystrom said, “We had great reception in all the communities. I was thrilled that all of the people we met, including Mark’s supporters, were polite and wonderful to talk to. I truly enjoyed the experience.”
She said she spent about “half the time in Hood River and half in Clackamas” counties during the campaign, her first.
“I know the Hood River Education Association endorsed me and I don’t know how big a role that had, but I believe the teachers do a have a very difficult job and need support.
“I think one of the disadvantages I had as a brand new candidate was no name recognition and I need experience running for office or holding office,” Nystrom said. “Mark is a very polished politician and comes across very well, but as I talked with people at their doors the message resonated more. I was able to talk to people and get the message out. Mark talked about education … but the school district had budget cuts eight of the last nine years, and the policies that go behind the message aren’t there. And people of his own county know that.”
Johnson said, “Stephanie and her supporters made a good effort in Hood River. You need a grassroots effort,” he said. “The Democrats in House District 52 have a much more organized political presence than they do across the entire Senate District 26. They work especially hard to elect their candidates.
Asked, “Yet school district employees are outnumbered by general voters, so given your campaign platform of public education advocacy, how did that not appeal to a larger number of voters?”
Johnson replied, “It’s a case of union politics versus school board people. It is something I’m going to have to work harder to do. I’ll continue to advocate for a strong economy to support a public education. I don’t think you can separate good paying jobs from a high quality education. Those are the priorities and principles the legislature will have to work for because I think it’s good for everybody.”
Johnson said his next task as legislator is to participate in House Republican leadership elections, starting this week. “I hope to fit into that mix somewhere,” he said.
Robert Bruce said of his outcome versus Chuck Thomsen, “For the first time running for a guy who came out of the woods, I was pleased. I was pleased with the race. I think Chuck and I kept it clean and very civil. We both kept it to the issues and about our differences and not about personal attacks. For the first time doing it, I think it was a fabulous experience. I have every reason to expect to try again in the future in some way.”
Bruce said, “I would love to see the people of District 52 get more involved and more informed. My whole goal in this whole thing was to restore the people’s faith in government, and it was sad to see out on the campaign trail how many people had given up and said, ‘I don’t care anymore.’ One or two people can make a difference. I urge people to pick up their faith and get back involved. It’s critical. I think we have to have it.”
Thomsen spent the two days after the election the same way he did last time he ran: picking up campaign signs.
“If you win and you’re picking up signs in the rain it’s not so bad,” he said.