After a four-year absence, Tootie Smith appears to have won her bid to return to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners as chair. In the first round of returns posted on election night, which included ballots from 35 percent of eligible voters, Smith held a five-point lead over incumbent Jim Bernard.
Smith is a conservative Republican who has previously served as county commissioner, from 2012 to 2016, and in the Oregon Legislature, having been first elected there in 2000. Smith grew up in southern Clackamas County and still lives in Molalla, on a hazelnut farm.
On her campaign website, Smith pledged to voters, “You deserve the good roads, no new taxes, and better healthcare you’ve been asking for.” Late Tuesday night, her campaign shared a statement claiming victory in her bid to unseat Bernard.
“Thank you to the people of Clackamas County for their support and placing their trust in me,” she said. “They sent a strong message tonight that they want a county government that is accountable to them.”
She said she knew the campaign would be an “uphill battle,” but that she had worked hard to educate voters about the need for new leadership at the county level, and “they listened.”
“This election was about the people of Clackamas County,” she said. “In the coming months and years, we will be confronted with very difficult challenges on the public health and economic front from COVID-19, and I am glad I passed the voters’ test to tackle those with them. Homelessness, transportation, and affordability are all things we must also come together to solve.”
She said she is looking forward to getting to work for the people of Clackamas County and standing up for local communities.
With at least 31,000 ballots still to be tallied, Bernard could close the approximately 4,500-vote gap that divides the two candidates. Shortly after the first results came out, he told the Canby Now Podcast he felt it was too early to call.
But he admitted in a since-deleted post to his campaign Facebook page later that night that things weren’t looking good.
“I apologize to my supporters that you may have to deal with Tootie and her Trumpian political philosophy of lies,” he said. “You will still have a great commission but our four years of successful relationship building will be destroyed.”
Smith is poised to lead a commission with a few familiar faces, including Martha Schrader and Paul Savas — with whom she previously served on the board — and Ken Humberston, who unseated her during her own reelection bid in 2016.
The commission’s fifth member, Sonya Fischer, was initially appointed in 2017, to fill the vacancy created when Bernard became chair. Fischer was reelected two years ago.
Schrader won her reelection bid Tuesday night, with nearly 70 percent of the vote, while Humberston had a commanding lead, but may not have done well enough to avoid a fall runoff. He received 50 percent; challengers Mark Shull and Breeauna Sagdal tallied 27 and 23 percent, respectively.