Election leaves City Council candidates in a dead tie, at last count

Sean C. Morgan

Who will sit on the Sweet Home City Council is still up in the air following a tie for fourth place among two candidates, and it may be a couple of weeks before that is resolved.

Incumbent Greg Mahler, Ryan Underwood and Jeff Goodwin are clear winners in the City Council race on Nov. 4, but incumbent Bruce Hobbs and James Goble are tied for fourth place.

Mahler, owner of Hoy’s Hardware and a longtime volunteer firefighter, finished with 1,296 votes, 12.35 percent. Underwood, manager at Hoy’s Hardware, finished with $1,146 votes, 10.92 percent.

Goodwin, an attorney with John Wittwer, earned 932 votes, 8.88 percent) just 16 votes ahead of Goble, a manager with TiSquared, and Hobbs, an assistant manager at Circle K, with 916 votes, 8.73 percent.

Hobbs and Goble, along with all of the candidates, could pick up more votes as the Linn County Clerk’s Office resolves challenged ballots and collects additional ballots dropped in other counties, which is expected to change the totals and resolve the tie.

Finishing in sixth place was Anay Hausner with 747 votes, 7.12 percent; and Aaron Pye, seventh, with 538 votes, 5.13 percent.

Voters may go the county courthouse and sign an unsigned ballot or confirm voting a challenged ballot, a ballot that has a question about the signature, said County Clerk Steve Druckenmiller, who ran unopposed and retained his position last week. Voters with challenged or unsigned ballots were notified by the end of last week.

Linn County had between 300 and 400 of those ballots, Druckenmiller said, but he did not know how many were from Sweet Home.

Additionally, voters may have dropped ballots off in other counties, Druckenmiller said. His office has 12 days after the election to count the challenged and unsigned ballots and ballots delivered to other counties.

He does not plan to count them until Druckenmiller hears that he has all of the ballots in from other counties.

Twenty days after the election, the election is certified, Druckenmiller said. If the election still has a tie, then the county will recount the ballots. If the election remains tied after that, then the decision is decided randomly based on the City of Sweet Home’s charter.

That decision could be made in any of several ways, including cutting a deck of cards, throwing dice, drawing names from a hat or similar methods.

Ties tend to happen in smaller elections or with positions with no candidate filed, Druckenmiller said. He remembers ties in Waterloo and in some school districts. Typically, where no one has filed, write-in candidates tie.

“The process needs to run its course,” Druckenmiller said.

Election night, “it looked like I didn’t make the cut,” Goble said. He trailed Hobbs by 16 votes. The next morning, the count had changed, and Goble and Hobbs were tied.

Goble said he was excited, and if he wins the race, he’ll focus on making the bigger changes. If he loses, he’ll keep doing what he has been: working with other volunteers in the community on various projects to help the community and serving on the Planning Commission.

“If I still have a strong support group, I’ll throw my name in there to run again,” Goble said.

Hobbs said appreciated the turnout – 70.3 percent of registered voters countywide.

“I’m excited so many people showed up to vote,” Hobbs said. “There is no wrong choice. I almost hope it comes to a coin flip just because it’s fun.”

The top three finishers will serve four-year terms. The fourth-place candidate will serve a two-year term.

“I’m ecstatic,” Mahler said of his finish. “I’m looking forward to the next four years. I’m passionate about this community.”

Sweet Home faces some serious issues, he said, and those won’t even be resolved in the next four years. One is the ongoing issue with inflow and infiltration, storm water that leaks into the sewer system through deteriorating pipes and through cross connections from the storm system to the sewer system.

It’s a frustrating problem that requires the city to spend millions more in the wastewater system, Mahler said. The other issue is police funding.

“We’ve got to find a way to maintain service levels,” he said, and the police are the top priority along with the fire service, which operates autonomously.

“This is one of the greatest cities I’ve ever lived in,” he said. “I love this community. I grew up here. My kids have grown up here.”

He’s always looking out for the best interests of the citizens of this community, Mahler said.

Underwood said he was “very surprised” by the election results.

“There’s going to be a learning curve,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

He’s looking forward to a group of seven minds coming together to do what’s best for the community, he said, solving some of the issues the community faces.

Mahler employs Underwood, but both say that it won’t affect their service on the council, and they’ll easily vote independently without repercussions at work.

“It’s not going to affect anything, one way or another,” Mahler said. “We’re not going to have politics here at the store.”

Citing outgoing Councilor and longtime Mayor Craig Fentiman, he added, “You have to learn to agree to disagree. You can’t take it personally.

“Ryan and I get along so well, I really don’t see a lot of issues.”

Underwood laughed at the notion of his employment relationship affecting his work on the council.

“That shouldn’t affect me whatsoever,” Underwood said. “Our personal lives do not come to work, whatsoever.”

As manager, he and Mahler sometimes disagree, Underwood said. The two aren’t strangers to differences of opinion. Sometimes Underwood has to compromise, and sometimes Mahler must compromise, he said.

In other elections, a measure that essentially extends Linn-Benton Community College’s general obligation bond failed in Linn County, with 23,344 county voters saying no, 57.29 percent, and 15,061, 36.96 percent, supporting it; however, Benton County voters provided enough support – 22,620 yes votes to 12,290 no votes to pass by 2,047 votes.

City of Sweet Home charter revisions passed 1,557, 59.34 percent, to 784, 29.88 percent. The revisions primarily altered language to conform to state law, created gender neutrality and eliminated amendments that no longer have an effect.

In state House District 17 incumbent Republican Sherrie Sprenger defeated Democrat challenger Rich Harrisay 12,617, 73.4 percent, to 4,499, 26.2 percent. The district includes Sweet Home and most of the surrounding area.

In House District 11, incumbent Democrat Phil Barnhart defeated Republican Andy Petersen 12,519, 52 percent, to 11,468, 47.6 percent. The district includes the area southwest of Sweet Home along Highway 228 and south into Lane County and Eugene.

Incumbent Democrat Lee Beyer defeated Republican Michael P. Spasaro for Oregon Senate District Six 19,304, 58.7 percent, to 13,468, 41 percent. The district includes house districts 11 and 12. House District 12 represents Springfield.