Voters OK bond to build LBCC ag training center

Scott Swanson

A $16 million measure to fund construction of an agricultural training center and other improvements for Linn-Benton Community College won approval in the May 17 primary election, though mostly through Benton County votes, which outweighed a loss in Linn County results.

Returns were incomplete on Election Day, thanks to the state’s new postmark rule, approved by the Legislature last year, which requires any ballot with a postmark of May 17 or before to be counted through May 24.

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said earlier this month that residents should expect that the number of ballots received in a county may increase slightly after an Election Day, noting that “these are ballots that were cast on time, if they were cast by 8 p.m. on Election Day.”

“In close races, it may take a few days before we know an official winner, because election officials will be counting all on-time and verified ballots,” noted Fagan, a former state legislator who was elected Secretary of State in 2020 and for whom this is her first statewide election.

As of 8:36 a.m. on the day after the election, Linn County’s ballot returns were reported to be 28.5% of registered voters, the third-lowest in the state at that point. The statewide total was 31.80%.

The $16 million LBCC measure will fund a new agricultural job training center, and other facility and safety improvements. College officials said passage of the measure will provide an $8 million state matching grant for the projects.

The measure passed 59.18% to 40.82%, but it was carried by Benton County voters, who supported it, 71.11% to 28.89%. Linn County voters were 52.07% against the measure, 47.93% for it.

The bond will cost property owners in the district about 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, an average of about $2 a month.

LBCC President Lisa Avery, who came to the college in July of 2020, said she appreciated the “robust” support from voters.

“We know it’s a tough time to ask for public support,” she said. “Honestly, with high gas prices and the economic anxiety that’s prevalent out there right now, we feel those are pretty solid numbers.

“This is very exciting.”

Avery said the college staff will move forward quickly to “unlock” the $8 million matching grant from the state and get the project moving.

In the contested primaries voted on by East Linn County, Albany resident Jo Rae Perkins led Darin Harbick 41.06% to 27.53% among county voters in the Republican primary for Ron Wyden’s U.S. Senate seat as of Monday morning, May 23. Statewide, as of Monday, though, Perkins led 32.66% to 30.79% over Harbick.

Wyden had 89.13 percent of county votes in the Democratic primary.

In the Democratic primary for the 5th District House of Representatives seat, incumbent Kurt Schrader had 52.33% of county votes, with challenger Jamie Mcleod-Skinner trailing with 46.50%, though Mcleod-Skinner won the nomination district-wide with 60.92% of the vote.

For governor, Christine Drazan had 28.88% of county Republicans’ votes, over Bob Tiernan’s 14.49%. Statewide, Kotek had 55.79% to Read’s 32.11%. Statewide, Drazen had 22.70%, to 17.82% for Tiernan, who conceded last week.

In the Democratic primary, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek drew 43.69% of county Democrats’ votes over 36.83% for state Treasurer Tobias Read. As of Monday morning, May 23, Kotek had 56.73% of the statewide Democratic vote.

In the primary races for state House District 11, Jami Cate of Lebanon, who currently represents District 17 but was redistricted into the 11th District this year, defeated Tyler Collins of Brownsville (14.74%) in the Republic primary with 84.95% of the vote.

Mary K. Cooke of Lebanon led the Democratic field with 35.60% of the vote, ahead of Renee Windsor-White of Lebanon (30.86%) and Nina Brenner of Scio (29.41%).

In the state Senate 6th District, Republican Cedric Hayden and Democrat Ashley Pelton ran unopposed in the primary.

Linn County Supervisor of Elections Derrick Sterling said the turnout numbers weren’t particularly surprising.

“There wasn’t much on the ballot driving stuff, county-wide,” he said, noting that the election did not include statewide measures. “If you look at past elections, for primaries and stuff, we’re right in the ballpark.”

Sterling said that the local elections “went off without a hitch,” and that the county was still receiving ballots as of Thursday, but he said he couldn’t say exactly how many.

“Anything I would say would just be a guess,” he said.

The new rules, Sterling said, have pushed all the election deadlines out by a week. Challenges used to be allowed up to 14 days after the elections; now it’s 21. Elections previously were certified on the 21st day following the election; now it’s 28.

Clackamas County (21.5%), which along with Umatilla County (25.5%), ranked below Linn County at that point, has been dealing with smudged ballots, which required officials to hand-copy ballots from smudged submissions to clean ones under the scrutiny of representatives from both parties.