The closest legislative contest in Oregon’s May primary isn’t going to a recount, by the barest of margins.
Certified results submitted to state elections officials Monday show that the two Democrats vying for a Lake Oswego state House district are separated by 28 votes. That’s just outside of the state’s threshold for an automatic recount, which would have been triggered if the margin had been 27 votes.
The victor in the race for House District 38 is Daniel Nguyen, a restaurateur and Lake Oswego City Council member, who had exactly 50% of the vote in the latest tally. His opponent, Lake Oswego school board member Neelam Gupta, called Nguyen on Monday to congratulate him, she told OPB.
Under state law, hand recounts are required in elections where the top two vote getters are separated by 0.2% or less of the vote.
Nguyen will now take on GOP candidate Alistair Firmin in a district that heavily favors Democrats. House District 38 is currently represented by state Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, who is now her party’s nominee for Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District.
The HD 38 primary has looked for weeks like it was headed for recall, but result delays in Clackamas County – one of two counties the district touches – created a suspenseful finish.
Gupta performed better in Multnomah County, and had a lead in early results. But Clackamas County voters favored Nguyen, who eventually took the lead as votes were slowly counted. Nguyen’s lead steadily grew in the weeks since the May 17 primary.
Clackamas County learned weeks before the May election that misprinted barcodes would make it impossible for vote tallying machines to read many ballots returned by voters. Those votes instead had to be hand-copied onto functional ballots, a time-intensive job that County Clerk Sherry Hall has acknowledged she did not move quickly enough to tackle, creating one of the most notable elections snafus Oregon has seen.
County elections offices in Oregon hand count a sample of ballots following elections to ensure that vote tallying machines performed properly, a process that kicked in after votes were certified Monday. Because of the flawed process in Clackamas County, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announced last week she is requiring officials there to perform more extensive post-election audits than other counties.