53rd House District Republican primary

Jack Zika: 3,693 votes 49.89%

Ben Schimmoller: 3,682 votes 49.74%

Write-in: 27 votes 0.36%

Total votes cast: 7,402

SALEM — The Republican primary for the 53rd House District is too close to call, with just 11 votes separating the two candidates. The vote won’t be resolved before June 4.

Jack Zika of Redmond saw his lead of a few hundred votes over Ben Schimmoller of Bend shrink overnight to less than a dozen.

The seat is currently held by Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, who is retiring.

“We want to make sure all the votes are counted,” Zika said. “I’m glad to be 11 up rather than 11 down.”

Reagan Knopp, campaign consultant for Schimmoller, said he was pleased by the news Tuesday morning.

“I woke up this morning expecting to be disappointed and was surprised to find it so close,” Knopp said.

According to the Deschutes County Clerk’s office, as of Wednesday morning, Zika has 3,693 votes to Schimmoller’s 3,682.

There are 27 write-in votes for other names, 11 ballots in which the voter appeared to have cast a vote for more than one candidate, and 1,387 ballots in which voters cast votes in other races on their ballot, but did not cast a vote for the 53rd House District.

Under state law, any race that is decided by a margin of .05 percent of all ballots cast automatically goes to a recount. Currently, that threshold in the GOP primary for the 53rd House District would be 14 votes. If the race remains that tight after the additional votes are counted, a recount will be done automatically. Candidates can request a recount if the result is close, but outside of the .05 percent cut-off. They have to pay for the recount if the result is upheld, but not if it changes the outcome.

Under state law, ballots that were deposited in a legal ballot box anywhere in the state have to be counted. For example, a Deschutes County ballot deposited in Portland has to be shipped back to Deschutes County and added to the count.

However, ballots that were mailed in earlier but not received by the county clerk until after 8 p.m. on Tuesday cannot be counted. Postcards will be sent to those voters explaining that their votes were not counted and telling them how to avoid being left out at the next election.

In addition to ballots from other parts of the state, the county clerk will contact voters whose ballots were disallowed because they lacked the required signature on the envelope or the signature did not match the one on the voter registration card. The mailer will tell voters what actions they can take to have their vote counted. Write-in votes must also be tabulated.

Nancy Blankenship, the Deschutes County clerk, said the number of outstanding votes could conceivably be in the hundreds.

“Turnout was low, but we just don’t know how many are out there until they all come in,” Blankenship said.

Both candidates said they were hiring election law attorneys to monitor their interests during the process.

Zika and Schimmoller both said Wednesday they would back the eventual winner and want to rebuild good will after an often bruising primary. Schimmoller had challenged Zika’s party allegiance while Zika had questioned Schimmoller’s experience.

On the Democratic side of the 53rd House District race, Eileen Kiely of Sunriver was well ahead of Bill Trumble of Redmond. Kiely joined 54th House District Democratic candidate Nathan Boddie and the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary winner, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, in a victory celebration Tuesday night in Bend.

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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