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Sprenger defeats Johnson for GOP nomination in Linn County Commission primary
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Sprenger defeats Johnson for GOP nomination in Linn County Commission primary

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Former state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger held off a spirited challenge from political newcomer Kerry Johnson on Tuesday night to win the Republican nomination for the Position 3 seat on the Linn County Board of Commissioners.

In updated unofficial returns released shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, Sprenger was leading the four-way race with 10,440 votes, followed by Johnson with 4,305, Bill Schrader with 674 and Jack Tacy with 409.

"I'm happy. I'm very happy," Sprenger said by phone Tuesday night from a friend's house, where she watched the returns come in with about two dozen friends and family members.

"It feels like everything's coming full circle. After 12 years of investing in this community, it feels like those investments and those relationships are coming back to me tonight."

Johnson, who gathered with close to 50 supporters for an election watch party at her downtown Albany campaign headquarters, wasn't quite ready to concede the race after the first returns came out shortly after 8 p.m.

"I'm anxious to see the rest of the votes come in," she said.

"If we are not successful in this race, we have lost nothing," she added. "I'm thrilled with the race we ran. We had great support from the people of the county. It's been a great experience."

After the second round of results came out around 10 p.m., however, she issued a statement conceding defeat and congratulating Sprenger on her successful campaign.  

Looking ahead, Johnson said she wasn't yet sure whether she would run for office again.

"I don't know about that right now," she said. "I think all my possibilities are open."

Scott Bruslind, the lone candidate for the Democratic nomination, received 7,438 votes in updated unofficial returns.

The seat was open because longtime Commissioner Will Tucker decided not to run for re-election.

Republican incumbent Roger Nyquist, running unopposed for the GOP nomination in Position 2, drew 13,332 votes in the GOP primary in updated unofficial returns.

No one filed to run in the Democratic primary, but Brad Bauer mounted a late write-in campaign. Nyquist reportedly also was seeking the Democratic nomination as a write-in.

A total of 1,411 write-in votes were cast in updated unofficial returns in the race, but the Linn County elections website did not specify who those votes went to.

Sprenger, 54, a former deputy sheriff who had served as state representative in House District 17 since 2008, was the early favorite in the GOP primary because of her political resume and name recognition.

But Johnson, 58, who manages her husband’s dental office, chairs the board of directors of Willamette Community bank and sits on the Linn County Fair Board and Linn County Budget Committee, mounted a strong challenge that raised her political profile.

The election got heated late in the race, when Johnson’s campaign mailed out a flier attacking Sprenger over legislative salaries, travel expenses and mileage reimbursements. Sprenger’s supporters took umbrage, firing back in letters to the editor that claimed the mailer distorted Sprenger’s positions and record of service.

On Tuesday, Johnson said she had no regrets about the flier or the controversy it sparked.

"I think politicians should be held accountable for what they do," she said. 

Asked for her opinion on the matter, Sprenger had this to say:

"I think it is less about how I feel and more about how the people of Linn County feel. They made it very clear that they were very disappointed, and so was I. That's just not how we do business here."

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at bennett.hall@lee.net or 541-812-6111. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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