Political newcomer Xan Augerot pulled a shocker Tuesday night, ousting four-term incumbent Jay Dixon in the Democratic primary for the Position 2 seat on the Benton County Board of Commissioners.
Augerot, the former director of the Marys River Watershed Council, held a solid lead in unofficial returns Tuesday evening with about 59 percent of the vote.
Augerot said she wasn't completely surprised at the outcome, based on what she was hearing from voters during the campaign.
"More than anything else, I think it was a readiness for new leadership and a feeling of disconnectedness with county government," she said.
Asked what he planned to do next, Dixon said: "I don't know. I have seven and a half months left in my term as commissioner, so tomorrow I'll go back to work as a commissioner and continue that until the end of the year."
It was the first time a fellow Democrat had tried to take on Dixon, and Augerot ran a vigorous campaign. She put in seat time at board of commissioners meetings, went door to door talking with voters, put up yard signs and sent out direct-mail pieces, while her supporters fired off a steady stream of letters to the Gazette-Times editorial page.
Dixon responded in kind, and the two faced one another several times in public forums where they debated campaign issues.
They generally saw eye-to-eye on many of the big issues facing the county, including the need for a new jail, the need for expanded facilities for the Health Department and the need to decide what to do about the seismically challenged Benton County Courthouse.
Where they differed was mainly in style, with Augerot presenting herself as a change agent who would bring fresh energy to the job and Dixon touting his years of experience in the post, his well-established working relationships with other officials and his background in both government and private sector jobs.
In the end, it appeared Augerot's message was the one that resonated with voters.
She will face Republican Jerry J. Jackson Sr. in the November general election.
Jackson, a Philomath resident who works as a private investigator and Polk County code enforcement officer, has mounted three previous campaigns for a seat on the three-member Board of Commissioners.
There were no contested primaries in the Position 3 race.
Democrat Annabelle Jaramillo — like Dixon, a four-term incumbent — was running unopposed in the Democratic primary in her quest for a fifth term.
Paul Cauthorn, a Corvallis real estate investor and community activist, was the sole candidate who filed to seek the Republican nomination.
The two will face off in the general election in November.
Andrew Struthers, an information technology consultant at Oregon State University, had filed to challenge Jaramillo in the primary election but withdrew from the race in March.
At current salary levels, a first-term Benton County commissioner makes $83,988 a year. As fourth-term commissioners, Dixon and Jaramillo make $94,071 annually.