A Benton County Elections Office hand recount confirmed that Jessica Andrade had won the final seat on the Philomath City Council by a single vote over David Low. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Besides the occasional text from friends who would check the results online and provide an update, incumbent candidate Jessica Andrade tried to not get too wrapped up in one of Philomath’s closest-ever City Council elections.

“I have to be honest … there wasn’t really anything I could do about the situation so I was just trying to not think too hard about it and just wait for the final results,” Andrade said Wednesday after officially winning the sixth and final seat on the council by a single vote over David Low.

David Low (campaign photo)

The Benton County Elections Office spent Monday and Tuesday recounting Andrade and Low votes by hand to confirm the results that had been published the previous week after the completion of the ballot signature challenge period.

“It’s been unsettling to not have an answer, you know,” Low said. “You go into this sort of thing thinking, ‘oh, I’ll know one way or the other on election night’ and it just dragged out … It was just kind of strange, but it is what it is.”

For the candidates involved, it really has been a lengthy process with a number of twists and turns. The top six vote-getters win a seat on the City Council and as it turned out with this election, every vote really did count.

On Election Day, challenger Peggy Yoder was in that sixth spot after the release of the late results that night by three votes over Low and 15 votes ahead of Andrade. By the following day, more ballots had been counted and Low slipped into sixth place by a single vote over Andrade with Yoder then sitting four votes back.

The next week, Benton County Elections provided another update and this time, Andrade was leading by one vote over Low with those two getting a bit of separation from Yoder. The only remaining update would come two weeks later with the completion of the election office’s ballot signature challenge period.

When that final update was released, Andrade had 1,225 votes to Low’s 1,224. And yes, with that close of a final tally, an automatic hand recount was triggered.

Jessica Andrade (campaign photo)

Elections office officials conducted the recount of Andrade and Low votes on Monday and Tuesday and the outcome was exactly the same. Benton County Clerk James V. Morales certified the results on Wednesday.

Said Low, “I wish her well … I sincerely do wish her well.”

It turned out to be the closest City Council election for the sixth seat since 1998 when Richard Matson edged Leo Reetz by three votes.

“I just really tried to focus on putting out information about myself to the community so that they knew who I was and what I stood for and how much I still wanted to represent our community and to be able to lift those voices that aren’t typically heard,” Andrade said when asked how she had approached campaigning.

Low said he really didn’t campaign much beyond a few yard signs.

“My weak point is campaigning — I really do not like going out and trying to sell myself to people,” Low said. “They either know what I did on the council or they didn’t and I didn’t want it to be a popularity contest. So, I figured I’ll run on my record and go from there.”

For the record, the official results showed Christopher McMorran in first with 1,709 votes, followed by Teresa Nielson (1,606), Matt Lehman (1,523), Diane Crocker (1,473) and Ruth Causey (1,248) in those first five positions. Then came Andrade (1,225), Low (1,224), Yoder (1,209) and Catherine Biscoe (1,202).

The final results showed that 12,490 votes had been cast with 66 overvotes and 4,232 undervotes. There were 71 write-in votes.

Andrade, Lehman and Nielson were elected to four-year terms while Causey, Crocker and McMorran were elected for two years as the city begins to implement staggered terms. The candidates indicated term preferences on their filing paperwork and all of their wishes were fulfilled with how the results turned out. In 2024, the three seats to be occupied by Causey, Crocker and McMorran will be on the ballot.

In the end, the council will see two newcomers in McMorran and Crocker while Low and Biscoe participate in their final meetings this month. A swearing-in ceremony will occur in early January.

The mayor occupies the seventh seat on the council and incumbent Chas Jones was re-elected to a two-year term by a fair margin over challenger Lawrence Johnson at 1,828 to 623. Beginning with the 2024 election, the mayor’s term will increase to four years.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.