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The five incumbent Benton and Linn county state legislators easily won re-election on Tuesday.

A majority of House District 16 constituents — 70.6 percent — elected Democrat Sara Gelser to a fourth term in office representing Corvallis and Philomath.

“I am really grateful to the community for giving me the opportunity to go back to Salem, to keep working on the things that matter like education, health care and the economy,” Gelser said.

Gelser spent election night rooting for candidates in Oregon’s swing-voter counties. Initial results showed that Democrats had taken back the majority in the House, Gelser said some 30 minutes after the local polls closed at 8 p.m. The House had been tied between Republicans and Democrats.

Gelser’s Republican challenger, Andrew Decker, a tax preparer and marketer for a business accounting service, secured 26.1 percent of the vote; Libertarian candidate Rachel Feigner took 3 percent.

Decker attributed the disparity in votes to his modest campaign — he collected less than $1,000 for the election — and the disadvantage of competing against an incumbent. Running for office has been a learning experience, he said, and he said that he looks forward to serving on the Benton County Board of Property Tax Appeals this year.

Voters in the House District 23 race re-elected Republican Jim Thompson of Dallas with 59.3 percent of the vote. Thompson was elected to represent the far-ranging district in 2008. It includes rural portions of Benton, Marion, Yamhill, Polk and Linn counties.

Democrat Ross Swartzendruber, a Salem resident who owns an advertising company and heads the nonprofit Solarize Salem, garnered about a third of the votes as of 10 p.m. Pacific Green Party candidate Alex Polikoff of Corvallis had 7.7 percent of votes at that time.

Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio, Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, and State Sen. Fred Girod, R-Lyons, all handily defeated their Democratic opponents to retain their seats in House District 17, House District 15 and Senate District 9 respectively.

“I’m just really thankful to have received election support from House District 15, the folks there in Albany and the Benton County area,” Olson said.

Sprenger, who turned back a challenge from Sublimity farmer Richard Harisay, said she’d move forward with some of her key local issues — such as a bill that would allows hunters to use dogs to track cougars — and a waiver process for Oregon schools to work with local tribes on the use of American Indian names and symbols as mascots.

Girod, who held off Democratic rival Steve Frank of Stayton to retain his place in Salem, said he’s concerned about Democrat control elsewhere in the Legislature.

“It’s going to be a tough couple of years for rural Oregon, because we can’t stop what’s coming out of Portland and Eugene,” he said.

Reporter Canda Fuqua can be reached at 541-758-9548 or canda.fuqua@lee.net.

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