SALEM — Republican Jack Zika of Redmond and Democrat Eileen Kiely of Sunriver look to be headed to the general election in the race to replace retiring state Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver.

Zika held a narrow lead over Ben Schimmoller of Bend in the GOP race for the 53rd House District. Kiely won by a 3-to-1 margin over Bill Trumble of Redmond.

Zika, a real estate agent and member of the city planning commission, said that the No. 1 priority for the Republican candidate will be to heal bruised feelings from the often rough GOP primary.

“A lot of things were said and done,” Zika said. “We need to put that behind us and unite as Republicans.”

Kiely, a “semi-retired” financial consultant and ski instructor, said that she would take a short break, then start reaching out to supporters.

“I don’t want to just represent Democrats; I want to represent everyone in the district,” Kiely said.

The 53rd District has almost 4,000 more Republicans than Democrats. A key constituency is the 16,285 voters registered as non-affiliated.

On the Republican side, the race quickly evolved into a battle between the experience claimed by Zika and the Republican political credential claimed by Schimmoller. Schimmoller’s campaign set up a “Who Is Jack Zika” website that challenged Zika with claims he had switched party allegiances over the years and was a relative newcomer to Oregon. Zika fired back that Schimmoller had no experience outside of the “grassroots activist” he listed as his job on the ballot, and that Salem had enough activists and not enough people with “real jobs.”

In comparison, the Democratic primary was a low-key campaign between Kiely and Trumble.

In the neighboring 54th House District, which includes most of Bend, Republican Cheri Helt and Democrat Nathan Boddie ran unopposed and move on to the November election.

— Reporter: 541-640-5280,