The contest to recall two Morrow County commissioners is incredibly close, and the campaign to remove a majority of the three-person board holds a small lead in both elections.
According to unofficial results from Tuesday’s special election, the yes votes were winning by an 11-vote margin to recall Commissioner Melissa Lindsay. Commissioner Jim Doherty is poised to also be recalled, as he trailed by 150 votes.
Recall petitioners have cited a number of reasons for trying to remove Lindsay and Doherty from office, including the firing of county administrator Darrell Green over the summer. A dispute between the Boardman Fire District and the board of commissioners also has grown in prominence in the weeks leading up to the election.
The district has been trying to expand into ambulance service for more than a year, but Fire Chief Mike Hughes said Doherty and Lindsay have blocked the effort to secure permission from the Oregon Health Authority.
The district hung a sign on an ambulance critical of Doherty and Lindsay just days before the election. The move earned rebukes from the two commissioners, but Hughes said it was a “factual, neutral statement.”
The ambulance issue has also worked its way into official campaign material. Pro-recall signs posted around Boardman urged voters to “make a stand for safety” accompanied by an illustration of an ambulance.
Should the recall succeed, it would cut Doherty’s term short by two years and Lindsay’s by less than two weeks. The Morrow County Clerk’s Office announced it would publicly update vote totals on Dec. 6 and Dec. 20 before certifying the election on Dec. 21.
Lindsay is set to leave office Jan. 3 because she lost her reelection bid in May to Planning Commissioner Jeff Wenholz by 26 votes. Wenholz signed the recall petitions for both commissioners, according to petition signers reports from the Morrow County clerk.
The potential success of the recall would leave Morrow County with one commissioner: Don Russell, who is also set to leave Jan. 3. If both Doherty and Lindsay are recalled, county counsel Justin Nelson has said that the governor would have the power to appoint one commissioner for the two weeks following certification to restore the board’s quorum.
Wenholz and Commissioner-elect David Sykes are set to take office in January.
While votes are being counted, turnout was down sharply compared to the general election earlier this month. While nearly 60% of Morrow County voters participated in the Nov. 8 election, only about 35% turned out to vote in the recall so far, according to the county clerk’s office.