Rep. Mike Nearman scored a convincing re-election victory Tuesday over former rival Jim Thompson in the race for Oregon House District 23.
Nearman, an Independence software engineer, defeated three-term incumbent Thompson in the GOP primary in 2014 and won the general election in November in the largely rural district that includes parts of Polk, Benton, Yamhill and Marion counties.
This year Nearman and Thompson, a Dallas plant researcher, battled in the general election. Nearman won the GOP primary despite losing in Polk County to Beth Jones, while Thompson ran as an Independent Party member. No Democrat filed papers to run in the district. Thompson, meanwhile, was hoping that moderates and Democrats in the general election pool would prefer him to the more conservative Nearman.
"I think I reflect my district well," said Nearman, who had a comfortable 3,500-vote lead in unofficial returns. Nearman was leading in all four counties.
"It's a pretty homogeneous district," Nearman said. "The people in Dayton are not unlike the people in Monroe. Yamhill, Benton and Marion ... there aren't a lot of areas in the district where I don't do well."
"We are disappointed by the outcome but the people have spoken," Thompson said in a statement released by his campaign. "No matter how much voters complain about the two-party system in our elections, it is tough to overcome. I want to thank all the people who stood with me in the race. I am holding my head up high with a race well run. No matter what this will always be Oregon, my Oregon and I wish her people the best."
Nearman said that one of his key goals is accountability, particularly in fiscal matters.
"I have worked hard to be ethical and accountable and I think people responded to that," he said.
During a campaign forum in Corvallis, Nearman cited the costly $360 million Highway 20 realignment work, the $300 million Oregon health care website and the bridge over the Columbia River ($180 million) that was never built as examples of projects that needed to be managed more efficiently.
"Those projects were before my time, but I'm trying to learn the lessons of those projects," Nearman said. "We should have spent the $300 million on delivering health care and we should have spent the $180 on building a bridge."
Nearman said he hoped to have an impact as a member of an oversight committee that is involved in a nine-year project to overhaul the software system of the Driver and Motor Vehicles Services Division (DMV).
The DMV project is expected to cost $90 million and the oversight committee is in the early part of phase one.
"I want to thank all of my supporters," Nearman said. "They really stood by me."
Also in the race were Pacific Green candidate Alex Polikoff, a Corvallis electrical engineer and Libertarian Garrett Leeds, a Monmouth safety manager.