From the Left Bank
Can Three Precincts Turn Tide For Bates?

By Peter Toll

steve bates.boring.smallSteve Bates can be considered a stubborn man. Having lost his race to unseat Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard in the May primary, Bates is asking for a recount of three precincts (of the county’s 181) to see if results would prompt an automatic county-wide recount.

Where Bates thinks he can find the votes to prompt the bigger recount opens interesting doors. They’re both urban and rural. He won two of them and lost in another. Overall county turnout was 30.95 percent with the county commission race drawing less, as the lower voters moved down their ballot, the more they lost interest.

Let’s look at the precincts Bates thinks may hold the secret to a recount and see how they did:

  • Precinct 330, a rural chunk largely west of Molalla in the southern part of the county. He gave Bernard a good thumping in this one with 469 votes for Bates and just 348 for Bernard. Overall turnout for that race in that precinct was 35.08%, above the state and local average.
  • Precinct 404, which runs east of Highway 26 from Damascus to the outskirts of Sandy. This is part of Bates’ home turf since he lives in the Boring area, where he chairs the Boring Community Planning Organization. Bates got a whopping 452 votes while Bernard could only muster 175 in a 28.09 percent turnout for that race.
  • Precinct 418 runs from suburban Milwaukie on the south north to Clatsop Street, pretty much straddling Highway 205 and taking in some of Happy Valley. Bernard won that one by 395-345 with a skinny 21.56 percent turnout.

Bates and his advisors, no doubt including County Chair John Ludlow and his sidekick Tootie Smith, obviously think they have a good shot in 330 and 404 and that Bernard’s edge in 418 could be whittled to make a recount happen. Bates, by the way, is paying for this mini-recount.

There are a few things at play here. While Bates had superb returns in his home base of 404 and the rural Molalla setting, their voter turnout was poor overall. Had they gotten at least an average or better than average response, he could have picked up probably 100 or so more votes. Answer: Find your base, work it, and get it to vote.

Bernard, on the other hand, must’ve worked his own base pretty hard to get the nod. A good campaign strategist will tell a candidate to (1) Firm up your base and get that vote out. (2) Then move to the swingers, the precincts which reflect a middle of the road approach on your race. Finally, (3), reach out to your opponent’s precincts and try to pick one or two off so you can bite into their totals. All depending, of course, on how much resources you can generate.

As for the mini-recount itself, predicting the actual number Bates needs depends on a percentage of the total amount of people who voted; that figure, despite numbers from the County Clerk’s office, traditionally will show some variations. The degree of variation and degree of separation is what Bates is gambling on.

He should know by tonight, the 24th of June. The recount is scheduled for that morning, and the result will be conveyed by the Secretary of State’s office, according to a spokesman for the Clackamas County Clerk.


Peter Toll has lived in Clackamas County more than 25 years, all the while active in Clackamas and Oregon Democratic activities. He is an independent financial advisor with a progressive perspective. You can reach him at