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Chapman leading the way in judge's race

Jennifer Chapman’s fluctuating and narrow lead over Lisl Miller for a seat on the Yamhill County Circuit Court bench stood at 130 votes, 18,547-18,417, in Wednesday morning unofficial results.

Those figures reflect all verified ballots turned into county ballot boxes.

County Clerk Brian Van Bergen said up to 2,000 ballots could still be counted, comprised of those sent to other counties and ones with signature issues. 

“The constantly moving target is the ballots envelopes with signature issue,” Van Bergen said. “We’ve been receiving responses daily for those problems since we started mailing out correspondence a couple of weeks ago.”

He added, “As soon as we get the bulk of those out then we’ll get back to checking signatures on those ballots that came from other counties and work those ballots.”

Van Bergen said an update of results will like happen this afternoon, with additional updates likely on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week. 

Chapman currently has 50.03 percent and Miller 49.68 percent of the vote. Miller said she felt the outcome would be close.

An automatic recount would be triggered if the candidates are within .20 percent of each other in final results.

Chapman serves as legal counsel for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Miller has been a county Deputy District Attorney for 15 years.

“I am impressed by the voter turnout and interest in the judicial race,” Chapman said Wednesday morning. “I am grateful for my supporters, and I have great respect for Mrs. Miller.”

Chapman did not want to comment further until the results became official or she and Miller have an opportunity to speak.

A short time later, Miller acknowledged the results were trending in Chapman’s favor, whom she planned to call.

“Jennifer ran a good campaign and was a tough competitor,” she said. “Her message that the bench needs the balance of a judge with civil court experience resonated with voters.”

Miller expressed her appreciation to her supporters and everyone who voted for her. She had never been involved with a campaign prior to this time, and said one has no idea what the experience is like unless you’ve been a candidate for office.

She said, if the results hold, she would not commit herself to seeking a judgeship again if the opportunity to run presents itself. Miller said she looks forward to continuing to work as a deputy district attorney, a job she loves.

“I am really lucky,” she said. “I have great co-workers and a great boss (District Attorney Brad Berry).”

Chapman held a 134-vote lead following the first count released, shortly after 8 p.m. Miller later cut into the lead, reducing the deficit to 77 votes. Chapman has since built the 130-vote lead.

Miller was victorious in the primary, 33.9 percent, 6,379 votes, to Chapman’s 24.6 percent, 4,619 votes, McMinnville defense attorneys Carol Fredrick, Mark Lawrence and Mark Pihl were the other candidates.

Leading up to Tuesday’s election, Chapman’s message to voters was three of the four judges in the county — John Collins, Cynthia Easterday and Ladd Wiles — are former prosecutors. Collins is a former district attorney. With a civil background, Chapman always maintained she would bring balance to the bench.

Chapman said the average citizen who finds himself in a courtroom setting is more likely to be there as the result of a civil rather than criminal matter.

Miller believes otherwise, countering the time judges spend on the bench is “weighted on criminal matters.” She said she reached out to the four judges who told her that 60 to 90 percent of the cases they hear are of criminal nature.

Chapman received the support of her Yamhill County Bar Association peers in the runup to the general election. She garnered 39 votes to 24 for Miller, who was the association’s choice leading up to the May primary.

Presiding Judge Ronald Stone will retire, effective Dec. 31, and either Chapman or Miller will be sworn in a short time later.

Editor Ossie Bladine contributed to this report.

Check newsregister.com for updates on the race as more results are posted.

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