Republican Cheri Helt on Tuesday won the fractured race for House District 54, which includes most of Bend.

Helt was leading by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in initial returns over Democrat Nathan Boddie. Working Families Party candidate Amanda La Bell was trailing far behind.

“I am feeling really good,” Helt said. “I am very proud voters crossed party lines and voted for me. I am very honored. I am looking forward to getting to Salem and making changes in education.”

Helt said the possibility of a Democratic supermajority that would not need Republican help to pass tax bills would not have an affect on her agenda.

“I can work across the aisle to get things done,” Helt said.

Expectations originally were for a tight contest for the seat left open when Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, opted to run for governor.

Though Republicans had won four straight elections for the seat, the district has an ever-increasing Democratic voter registration edge over Republicans. The seat was seen as a key battle for Democratic efforts to build a supermajority in the House that would allow them to pass finance and tax bills without Republican support.

The original scenario began unraveling soon after the May 15 primary. Boddie, a Bend city councilor, won an uncontested Democratic primary, while Helt, who is on the Bend-La Pine School Board, also had no opposition in the Republican primary.

But in June, the House Democrats’ political campaign committee and a number of liberal groups withdrew their support for Boddie following allegations that he’d engaged in sexist behavior and made homophobic remarks. In July, he was hit with allegations of sexual harassment, losing the endorsements of Democrats.

Into the vacuum stepped La Bell, who immediately received the support of Brown and Merkley. Within weeks, it surfaced that La Bell had submitted a false claim in her Voters Pamphlet statement that she had received a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University in Georgia. La Bell eventually suspended her campaign.

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

21642308