Photo courtesy of Marion County
When Commissioner Janet Carlson announced her retirement from the Board after 16 years of service early in 2018, the local election scene became electrified. Three Democrats and two Republicans filed for the open seat. Mr. Willis prevailed against Salem City Councilor Brad Nanke to face Marion County Clerk Democrat Bill Burgess. He also became the candidate for the Independent Party of Oregon by receiving the most write-in votes cast by members of the party since no candidate filed for the position from the party.
Although he had gained some recognition in the county by way of his unsuccessful attempt to unseat U.S. Rep Kurt Schrader in 2016, he faced a climb up a steep hill to overcome the advantage enjoyed by his Democrat opponent after 13 years in county office. In a nail-biter finish, Mr. Willis overcame the odds to win 48.6% of the votes cast compared to 45.9% cast for the Democrat. The remaining 5.5% is largely explained by a 5.4% undervote on the contest.
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