Marion County Republicans swept to victory in the Salem-Keizer School District special election Tuesday night, returning Zone 2 incumbent Marty Heyen for a second term, and electing Danielle Bethell in Zone 6 and Dr. Satya Chandragiri in Zone 4. Mrs. Bethell ousted three-term incumbent Chuck Lee in what was perhaps the biggest surprise of the election. Dr. Chandragiri won the contest for the opening created by the retirement of Jim Green after two terms.
2019 marks the second time since Mrs. Heyen won election in 2015 that Marion County Republicans actively recruited and endorsed candidates for the school board. In 2017 two of the three candidates — current chair Kathy Goss and Jesse Lippold — won election and added support to Mrs. Heyen, though still from a minority position. Starting in July, however, with the addition of Mrs. Bethell and Dr. Chandragiri, Marion County Republicans will occupy five of the seven seats on the board.
The three Republicans also picked up the endorsement of Oregon Right to Life and Polk County Republicans. The latter endorsement was critical since the school district takes in the largest population center in the county. Victory margins, according to the reports from both counties nearly matched (Polk County had a slightly higher voter turnout, too), which speaks to the importance of the endorsements.
MCRCC influence was also felt outside of Salem and Keizer through our endorsement of Coral Ford. Formerly a Marion County Republican PCP, the family now lives near Scio, across the Santiam River in Linn County. Sprouting from a seed planted in her by Jeff Heyen and then-chair Kevin Mannix, Mrs. Ford ran for a seat on the North Santiam School District (NSSD). Marion County Republicans gladly endorsed her. Like Salem-Keizer SD, NSSD crosses the county line separating Marion and Linn counties. It is fair to say that our endorsement had a decisive impact; with counting still ongoing, she leads her opponent in Marion County by a mere five (5) votes. Unfortunately, she trails on the Linn County side by 40. She is still holding out hope, given the hair-thin margin and the number of votes that must still be retrieved by Linn County from Marion County.
Update 24 May
Given that only Marion County has posted additional results since Tuesday, it is time to acknowledge that the election is, indeed, over. Here are the results of the school board races in which Marion County Republicans endorsed a candidate (indicated by bold face):
|Salem-Keizer School District Board of Directors|
|Zone / Director||Marion County||Polk County|
Zone 2 (NE Salem)
Marty Heyen (Incumbent)
Zone 4 (S / SE Salem)
Zone 6 (Keizer)
Chuck Lee (incumbent)
While undervoting — the practice of turning in a ballot with no marks for all or some contests or questions — is almost always curious, in the contest below a certain aggravation attaches. On the Marion County side, where Marion County Republican support and endorsement would have likely had the greatest impact, fully 86 voters did not mark a vote in the contest while on the Linn County side 40 left the contest blank. By the way, you can also note that the margin in Marion County has narrowed as tight as it can go with only one vote separating the two candidates:
|North Santiam School District Board of Directors|
|Zone / Director||Marion County||Linn County|
Position 2 Zone 2