Republican Jack Zika won a comfortable victory over Democrat Eileen Kiely in the race for House District 53.

Initial returns show Zika, a real estate agent from Redmond, with more than a 10 percent lead over Kiely, a retired corporate executive from Sunriver.

“Holy-moly, it has been a tough year, but it feels good,” Zika said.

His feeling of apparent victory was tempered somewhat by indications that Democrats may get a supermajority in the House, able to pass tax bills without Republican help.

“It’s going to make it tougher to get things done for Central Oregon, like affordable housing and education,” Zika said. “But we’ll try.

The district encircles most of the city of Bend.

The winner replaces Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, who retired from the House, leaving open the seat he had held since the 2002 election. The district has about a 4,000 voter registration edge for Republicans over Democrats.

The relatively calm and civil general election campaign between Zika and Kiely was in marked contrast to the sometimes bitter nail-biter of a primary on the Republican side. In one of the closest races in state history, Zika defeated political activist Ben Schimmoller by just two votes. The pair had faced off in an often acrimonious primary with Schimmoller challenging Zika’s Republican allegiance, while Zika cast Schimmoller as inexperienced.

Kiely won a comfortable victory over retired scientist Bill Trumble of Redmond.

Though Zika and Kiely said it wasn’t a major issue among voters they spoke with, pro-choice and anti-abortion activists picked sides and contributed money.

Zika was backed by Oregon Right to Life while Kiely was supported by the National Abortion Rights Action League.

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

21642312