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State Senator Shemia Fagan won the Democratic nomination for Oregon Secretary of State after an erroneous Election Night media call gave the race to an opponent. OregonLive has more:
Sen. Shemia Fagan clinched the Democratic nomination for secretary of state Wednesday, setting her up to run for the state’s second-highest office against a fellow senator in the fall general election.
The Oregonian/OregonLive, in a rare and serious error in its elections modeling, mistakenly called the race after 10 p.m. Tuesday for Sen. Mark Hass, who in fact came in second by about half of a percentage point after more results came in Wednesday.
The newsroom’s usually reliable modeling did not sufficiently account for slower results due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Therese Bottomly, editor, who made the final call. “We got it wrong,” Bottomly said. “I unreservedly apologize to Sen. Fagan, Sen. Hass, their supporters and our readers.”
Fagan joined the race just months ago, but enjoyed significant support from public unions backing her campaign:
Fagan, an employment lawyer and lawmaker from the Portland area who served four years in the House and is in her second year in the Senate, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening…
[She said] in a prepared statement that “while the secretary of state’s race remains too close to call, it is clear Oregonians set out to make their voices heard, even while facing an unprecedented pandemic. I am so grateful for Oregon’s vote-by-mail process and for the incredible election workers who have been tireless in their work to make sure every voice is heard.”
She also thanked unions, pro-choice groups and others for backing her.
In her primary campaign, Fagan cast herself as the most left leaning Democrat in the race and promised to promote the state’s democratic values, including pushing back publicly against President Donald Trump’s attacks on vote-by-mail, assuming he wins another four-year term and she wins the general election.
She also said she would advocate for a change in state law to make legislative caucuses’ paperwork gauging support for controversial bills a public record and direct the state’s auditors to avoid “playing ‘gotcha’” in their investigations of state agencies’ performance. Fagan and Hass agreed on several policy changes, such as implementing ranked choice voting, and she said she would look for additional ways to boost voter turnout.
Despite getting into the Democratic primary less than three months ago, Fagan vastly out-fundraised her competitors, Hass and former congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner from Central Oregon. Most of Fagan’s campaign money came from the state’s powerful public employee unions, which Hass attributed to his past votes to trim public pension costs including a 2019 bill that was part of a deal to pass a new $1 billion-a-year business tax to boost public education spending.
Fagan noted the unique nature of the campaign, which will now continue into the fall against a fellow state senator:
In a by-the-numbers flyer released on election day, Fagan’s campaign listed that she’d attended 93 events and interviews, sent 215,788 texts and made 502,943 phone calls. And, finishing on a lighter note: “2 rolls of toilet paper destroyed by my dog during Zoom calls.”
Fagan will face Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, in the November general election. Retaking the secretary of state’s office, held by Republicans for one term, is a top priority for Oregon Democrats, who control four out of the five statewide elected offices plus both chambers of the Legislature.
This story is interesting, not only for identifying candidates for the Beaver State’s top elections job, but also for highlighting the challenges the media will face in reporting Election Night results in a predominantly vote-by-mail environment conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the election process has changed in the wake of the coronavirus, so too will the process of obtaining and reporting the results; here’s hoping that we don’t see more mis-calls like the one that occurred in Oregon this week. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend and stay tuned …