Tuesday, November 11, 2008
POLK COUNTY -- The evening of Nov. 4 must have been a long one for Polk County District Attorney candidates Stan Butterfield and Aaron Felton.
By 2:30 a.m. and with not all ballots counted, the Polk County Clerk reported Butterfield of Dallas edging out West Salem-resident Felton by less than 1.5 percentage points.
It wasn't until later the following day that Butterfield unofficially was named the victor. The final election night vote tally was "tighter than anticipated," Butterfield said. He received 14,500 (50.53 percent) votes, while Felton earned 14,078 (49.06 percent).
"I'm very excited," Butterfield said the morning of Nov. 5, part of which was spent out in the rain removing election signs.
"We're very anxious to start getting to work on the criminal justice system in Polk County and trying to make things work more smoothly."
About 800 ballots remain uncounted and are not part of the election night totals, noted Polk County Clerk Valerie Unger. Complete final results should be available on or around Friday, Nov. 14.
Butterfield, who's worked as a defense attorney since 2004 and spent 11 years working for the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons, said a "grass-roots" campaign helped him eke out the narrow victory.
He also said that county residents ultimately "believed that I would be a change agent, and Felton, a status quo candidate."
Felton made up a 10 percent gap behind Butterfield at the conclusion of the spring primary -- this with Butterfield receiving an endorsement from the third candidate in the primary, Mike Fagan.
"I knew it was going to be a very close race and this was incredibly close," Felton said. "It's a testament to how hard both campaigns worked and the level of support both received."
According to the Elections Division of the Oregon Secretary of State, Butterfield and Felton's campaigns spent $24,837 and $39,773, respectively, on the race.
Butterfield, in general, garnered a larger level of support in the Dallas area and in rural areas both west and south of town, based on precinct-by-precinct results.
Felton received stronger levels of voter support in precincts covering Monmouth, Independence West Salem and Northwest Salem.
Felton declined to comment when asked if he would seek a recount because of the narrow margin of defeat "until the final numbers come in."
Unger noted that the margin between the candidates would have to be within one-fifth of one percent to trigger an automatic recount by the county.
With the election apparently won, Butterfield said he will be closing his private practice in Dallas within the next two months, a requirement by state statute.
He also plans to spend that time meeting with Polk court staff and judges, as well as law enforcement heads in the county and regional cities.
Some within the latter group had strongly criticized Butterfield's elected predecessor, John Fisher, for lack of communication and not being aggressive in criminal prosecutions.
"We will be putting together ways to implement changes that will improve those relationships that have been strained," Butterfield said.