The narrative that has dominated this year’s midterm elections coverage has seemed to focus on two things: the sweeping victories enjoyed by the Republican Party and relatively low voter turnout.
In Hood River County though, turnout was over 74 percent, which, albeit a slight dip from the 78 percent of registered voters who cast their ballot in the last midterm election in 2010, was significantly higher than the state’s average of 69.5 percent. And though Republican legislators who represent Hood River County did get reelected, not all won by large margins.
When breaking the county down into precincts and seeing how those precincts voted, the narrative becomes more diverse, and shows some interesting political divides, although they may not come as a surprise to readers.
To get a better sense of how different cities and regions in Hood River County voted, the Hood River News took a look at the different precincts, grouped them together based on shared location, and averaged the results for each region on a handful of candidate races and ballot measures.
For the sake of time, space, and possibly interest, we picked three of the more controversial and thus widely discussed measures on the ballot: driver cards for those who can’t prove legal U.S. residency (Measure 88), legalization of marijuana for recreational use (Measure 91), and requiring labeling for food that contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (Measure 92). For candidate races, we focused on the State Senate and State Representative races.
Hood River County is divided into 13 precincts and for the purposes of the article, we turned those precincts into five groups that roughly represent different population concentrations in the county: City of Hood River (precincts 1, 2, 3), Hood River’s Outlying Areas (4, 5, 6, 8), Odell (7, 13), Upper Valley (9, 10, 11), and Cascade Locks (12). For a precinct map and full results, go to http://www.co.hood-river.or.us/ (opens PDF).
CITY OF HOOD RIVER
Likely boosted by contested mayoral and council races, the city precincts boasted some of the highest voter turnouts with an average turnout of over 74 percent. It was also by far the most left-leaning area in our analysis.
Consider this: the city was the only one of the five areas where Democratic candidates Stephanie Nystrom, running for the State House of Representatives, and Robert Bruce, running for the State Senate, won, although Nystrom did narrowly win a few other precincts in the county. Nystrom defeated Republican challenger Mark Johnson, 60.97 percent to 38.83 percent, although she lost the race overall. Similarly, Bruce bested Republican Chuck Thomsen 55.42 percent to 44.36 percent, but lost the district.
For the ballot measures, marijuana legalization was extremely popular in the city, and far more popular than anywhere else in the county. The city’s precincts, in fact, were the only three precincts in the county that voted above 60 percent on the issue. Measure 91 passed with nearly two-thirds majority at 66.36 percent. For comparison, the measure passed statewide by less than 56 percent.
Labeling of GMOs was also popular in the city, with 63.53 percent voting in favor of Measure 92, although it failed by a razor-thin margin of 0.6 percent statewide. Driver cards, while wildly unpopular in the state of Oregon, were approved in the city, albeit with a narrow majority of 51.12 percent. The measure actually failed in Precinct 2 with only 46.48 voting in favor. At the state level, Measure 88 suffered a resounding defeat, with nearly two-thirds of the state voting against it.
HOOD RIVER’S OUTLYING AREAS
This area represented voters living outside of the city in places like the west side, Oak Grove, Pine Grove, the east side, and south of Hood River up until Tucker Bridge.
Voters in these precincts voted more conservatively than those living within the city limits and generally had the best turnouts in the county, with an average of over 76 percent.
Thomsen and Johnson were both victorious, although Johnson did not win Precinct 4 and Precinct 6, which roughly comprises the west side. In Thomsen’s home precinct, Precinct 8, over 70 percent voted for the incumbent State Senator, which was his best showing in the county. Johnson also performed well in Precinct 8, winning 61.5 percent of the vote. Overall, 61.08 percent voted for Thomsen in the outlying areas and 54.47 voted for Johnson.
Marijuana passed here with 53.81 percent in favor of legalization, although it failed in Precinct 5, which is the south side of Hood River until Tucker Bridge. GMOs failed, with only 47.71 in favor of the measure, although it passed in Precincts 4 and 6 with 55.21- and 52.71-percent support, respectively. Driver cards also failed, with 42.69 percent voting in favor of the measure.
One trend to note: GMO labeling suffered its greatest defeat in Precinct 8 at 40.88 percent, but driver cards were approved, albeit narrowly at 50.98 percent. Precinct 8 was one of only three in the county to approve Measure 88.
Odell was arguably the most uniformly conservative region in our breakdown, and had the lowest average turnout at 67.73 percent. Both Thomsen and Johnson received some of their best returns in the two precincts, winning with an average of 63.01 and 54.64 percent, respectively.
All three measures went down in defeat, with 47.83 percent voting in favor of marijuana, 44.31 approving of GMO labeling, and 42.45 agreeing with the driver card measure. This was the only area of the five where marijuana failed, although it passed in Precinct 7 (we’ll call it South Odell) at 51.47 percent and failed in Precinct 13 (North Odell) at 44.19 percent. The only other precinct where marijuana failed in the county was Precinct 5 at 45.59 percent.
The Upper Valley, which included Dee (Precinct 9), Mt. Hood (Precinct 10), and Parkdale (Precinct 11), voted similarly on the three measures and two candidate races to the precincts in the “Outlying Areas” group, although the Upper Valley’s turnout was lower at 73.1 percent. Marijuana was approved at 52.68 percent and GMO labeling and driver cards failed at respective percentages of 48.41 and 40.47. Thomsen and Johnson also took the Upper Valley at 56.87 and 52.43 percent, respectively.
In Precinct 9, by far the county’s smallest precinct in terms of registered voters (189 to be precise), two races were extremely close: Nystrom beat Johnson by two votes, and marijuana only passed by a single vote.
Like Odell, Cascade Locks voted conservatively, in general, but less uniformly so. The city’s turnout was also slightly on the low side at 68.88 percent.
Thomsen and Johnson won again, with 62.07-percent support and 56.44-percent support, respectively. Cascade Locks voters were overwhelmingly opposed to the driver card measure, with only 21.66 percent voting in favor. Nowhere else in the county was Measure 88 so unpopular — the next lowest approval rating for driver cards was 32.42 percent in Precinct 5.
However, marijuana legalization passed with 55 percent in Cascade Locks where the measure received its greatest support of the five areas, besides Hood River. The GMO labeling measure also passed at 52.82 percent, the second-highest of the five areas, again behind Hood River.