Incumbent Circuit Court Judge Adam Peterson and Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe would head to a runoff in November if late returns Tuesday night held firm, but Peterson was close to gaining an outright win.
In results released at 10 p.m., Peterson had 49.4 percent of votes, while Hoppe had 37 percent, and William Francis was a distant third, with just over 13 percent.
If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, there would be no runoff in November. As of the 10 p.m. count, Peterson was about 140 votes from the 50 percent mark.
Asked if he felt certain that he would win if he had to run in November, Peterson said, "I don't know if I would agree. I'm just thankful for the support of voters and happy to serve the county in a diligent fashion."
Peterson was a Jackson County deputy district attorney before being appointed to the bench in September by Gov. John Kitzhaber. He replaced Dan Harris, who retired.
Peterson was criticized by Hoppe during the campaign over questions about his campaign statements, with Hoppe saying Peterson had exaggerated his courtroom experience. Peterson defended his statements and his experience, saying many of his cases involved juveniles and did not end up in court.
Peterson, who has his law degree from Creighton University School of Law, was active as a prosecutor in cases involving child sex abuse and pornography and worked with the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force, Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement Task Force, Jackson County Child Abuse Multi-Disciplinary Team and the Juvenile Court Advisory Committee.
Hoppe has worked for the district attorney's office since 2000 and ran for the post of district attorney in 2012 against Beth Heckert. He has cited his years of prosecuting child abuse, domestic violence, adult sexual assault and other crimes as preparation for adjudicating them.
Hoppe, who also worked for the Klamath County District Attorney's Office, received his law degree in 1994 from Lewis & Clark in Portland after undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan.