SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A county commissioner in Oregon faulted by critics for not demanding an investigation of a destructive wildfire has emerged from a recall election with a decisive victory.
“I was very, very humbled by it,” Grant County Commissioner Boyd Britton said Wednesday, after the vote count the previous evening.
According to final, unofficial results, 65 percent of the 3,115 votes cast said “no” to the recall and 35 percent were for it, County Clerk Brenda Percy said. A total of 63 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
“This was a good turnout,” Britton said in a telephone interview from John Day.
Britton, whose position is part-time and who also runs a welding and machine shop in John Day, was back working in county court Wednesday morning.
“The majority of Grant county citizens spoke pretty loudly,” Percy said of the results. “That’s a pretty resounding (margin).”
That margin is even greater than the 49 percent of the vote Britton won the last time he ran in a primary, in 2014, Percy said
Among other things, the recall petition faulted Britton for not calling for an investigation into the 2015 fire.
U.S. Forest Service firefighters, whose manpower was stretched during the busy 2015 fire season, had been unable to snuff out the two fires early on that merged and became the Canyon Creek Fire that destroyed nearly 150 structures.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Britton defended his decision not to demand an investigation.
“I didn’t think we could afford it,” he said. “The fire blew up and it did what it did. Is (an investigation) going to bring anyone’s homes back, or belongings?”
Britton had also rejected the petition’s accusation that he has benefited financially from his position.
To the west in adjacent In Wheeler County, vote counting Monday night resulted in the recall of Wheeler County Judge Patrick C. Perry. A total of 406 ballots were for the recall, with 208 against in Oregon’s least populous county, according to County Clerk Barb Sitton.
Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement Wednesday that she intends to fill the vacancy by appointment. She encouraged applications from Wheeler County citizens and said the position will also appear on the November ballot.
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