By editorial board • 

Results as expected in a sparse turnout

The major surprise in Tuesday’s primary was probably how few Oregonians bothered to participate in this core exercise in American democracy. On both the state and local levels, results ran almost entirely to form.

To hear the Democratic Party tell it, Bend lawmaker Knute Buehler scraped through in a bruising Republican Party primary by turning hard right and shifting precious resources to target chief GOP rival Sam Carpenter instead of Democratic incumbent Kate Brown. But the way we saw it, Buehler held firm to his moderate principles, fixed Brown relentlessly in his sights and still managed to crush the opposition.

Buehler captured 47 percent of the vote, almost matching that of his nine opponents combined. Carpenter limped in at 29 percent, taking a licking even in conservative Yamhill County. It seems to us Buehler’s poised to mount a serious challenge, despite running in one of the bluest of blue states.

Oregon’s five incumbent congressmen won in easy victories. Republican Greg Walden was the only one failing to reach at least 85 percent. Given the caliber of the opposition, fall upsets appear most unlikely.

Democrat Val Hoyle handily turned back Republican Lou Ogden in the nominally nonpartisan labor commissioner race. And incumbent judges prevailed easily at all levels.

Shemia Fagan unseated embattled Democrat Rod Monroe in Senate District 24. But Kris Bledsoe’s attempt to dislodge Republican Mike Nearman, arguably the furthest right member of the entire Oregon Legislature, fizzled in House District 23.

Locally, incumbent Stan Primozich just edged Casey Kulla in a four-way county commission primary, setting the stage for a November showdown. The fall race could favor Kulla, who’s proven a skilled and energetic campaigner.

We thought Josh Rojas would make the best challenger, but he ran a lackluster campaign. What’s more, he tied himself to Chelsey Williams as half of a union ticket, and Williams never found any traction against incumbent Mary Starrett. An experienced campaigner with a well-established base, Starrett accumulated more than 60 percent of the vote, leaving Williams and David Wall to fight over the scraps.

We favored a fall runoff between Lisl Miller and Carol Fredrick for a Yamhill County circuit judgeship, but weren’t surprised to see labor lawyer Jennifer Chapman slip into second behind Miller, a longtime deputy district attorney.

Chapman was a virtual unknown in local legal circles, and featured the slimmest credentials in the five-way field. However, union forces pumped $10,000 into her campaign, and she made it count.

Bids to pass a charter amendment in Sheridan and fire levy in Willlamina lost 53-47. A public safety bond issue went down 61-39 in Carlton, but more than 88 percent of voters supported a water levy in Lafayette.

Turnout was abysmal.

A final statewide reckoning wasn’t immediately available, but indicators suggested it could be the lowest in the last 16 years and quite possibly the least in records going back  60 years. The modern record is 34.9 percent, set in 1998.

In Yamhill County, turnout ran a paltry 34.1 percent, despite three hotly contested, multi-candidate races. It was an even more dismal 33.4 at the state level, possibly establishing a new record low.

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