Wallowa County voters turned out in force this week to help elect a senator, governor, state representative and to decide more than a dozen statewide and local ballot measures.
The local electorate posted what election officials believe may be the highest voter turnout in the state, with 79.2 percent of registered voters casting their ballots.
Fueling the heavy turnout was a hotly contested governor's race between former Oregon Attorney General Ted Kulongoski and Republican businessman Kevin Mannix. That contest was a virtual tie at press time early Wednesday morning, with the candidates each claiming 48 percent of the votes.
Mannix was the heavy favorite in rural counties, including Wallowa County, where he won by a margin of 2,282 to 985.
Wallowa County voters also voted heavily to re-elect Republican Gordon Smith to the U.S. Senate and Greg Walden to the U.S. House of Representaties. Smith defeated Democratic challenger Bill Bradbury by a margin of 2,723 to 693. Walden defeated Democratic challenger Peter Buckley by a margin of 2,729.
Locally, Greg Smith of Heppner, a Republican, easily defeated Democratic challenger Elizabeth Scheeler of Pendleton in the race for Oregon House District 57. Smith garnered2,381 votes to Scheller's 990 to claim the seat previously occupied by Rep. Mark Simmons.
The measure proposing to create a park and recreation district in Wallowa County was soundly defeated, as was a five-year, $270,000 school levy in Joseph. The park and recreation district was defeated by a margin of 2,162 to 1,032. Joseph's school also went down by a margin of 667-467.
Wallowa County voters were supportive of one local tax measure - a proposal to establish a $86,000 tax base for a county weed control district. That measure was approved, 1,792 to 1,670, adding 19 cents per $1,000 to local property tax rates.
In a contested race for one position on the Enterprise City Council, Margie Shaw and Marty Thompson finished within four votes of each other, possibly triggering a recount. Shaw is the apparent winner of the contest with 343 votes to 339 for Thompson.
In a contested race for two city council positions at Wallowa, Ron Philbrook was re-elected to one position with 212 votes while Star Longley defeated Bob Keyser 186-174 the other.
Voters also decided the fate of 12 statewide ballot measures. One of the most contentious of these was Measure 23 which would extended necessary medical services to all Oregonians at an estimated cost of $20 billion. It was soundly defeated by a margin of approximately 80-20 percent. Voters narrowly approved an increase in the minimum wage to $6.90 an hour. They also approved by a wide margin a measure making it illegal to pay people to gather signatures for initiative petitions.
Complete results will follow in next week's edition.