Ron Maurer may have lacked the star power of some candidates in Tuesday's primary, but the Grants Pass legislator said he wasn't surprised by his strong showing against Susan Castillo, Oregon's incumbent superintendent of public instruction.

Ron Maurer may have lacked the star power of some candidates in Tuesday's primary, but the Grants Pass legislator said he wasn't surprised by his strong showing against Susan Castillo, Oregon's incumbent superintendent of public instruction.

The Republican state representative said Wednesday that wherever he traveled during his campaign he met people who were unhappy with the quality of public education in Oregon.

"I gave people a legitimate place to go on the ballot," he said, "and lots did."

With nearly all the votes counted late Wednesday, Maurer trailed incumbent Castillo by fewer than 3,800 votes out of a total of more than 681,000 cast.

A winner had not been declared by The Associated Press as the news organization waited for more of the several thousand remaining ballots to come in.

Maurer outpolled Castillo in 26 of Oregon's 36 counties. He lost in populous Lane, Multnomah and Washington counties, but carried other population centers such as Clackamas, Deschutes, Linn and Jackson counties.

He said anyone from Southern Oregon who campaigns for state office faces an uphill climb to gain name recognition in the Willamette Valley and the Portland metropolitan area.

"It takes an election cycle to get your name out there," he said.

Maurer said people he met early in the campaign seemed willing to support him just because he was not Castillo, but as he became better known, he gained support for his own qualifications.

"I presented a very credible case for myself," said Maurer, who holds a doctorate in education.

Castillo had support across the state from teachers unions, and the Oregon Education Association was her largest single source of campaign funds.

Castillo did not return a call seeking comment on the election.

Maurer said he was disappointed with many advocacy groups for their "complete lack of guts" to stand up to the teachers unions.

"I just wish the people who talk the talk (about education reform) would have walked the walk," he said.

Patty Glenn, Maurer's campaign manager, said there's still an outside chance the race isn't over. In a nonpartisan race, the winner must have 50 percent of the votes plus one, and Castillo's share had shrunk to 50.12 percent by late Wednesday because there were more than 2,000 write-ins. There could be a mandatory recount if the winner's margin is less than one-fifth of one percent of the total votes cast for both candidates (about 1,350 votes, based on the ballots that had been counted by late Wednesday).

Maurer said he did not expect his strong performance at the polls would prompt any significant change in state education policy. He said teachers will face a "devastating" financial situation in the near future with the disappearance of federal stimulus funds, the demands of the pension system and likely increases in insurance premiums.

"It won't be a pretty sight," he said.

Maurer said he wouldn't completely rule out running again in four years, but in the meantime he will need to go to work to support his family.

"I'm not going to sit around and wait for a political opportunity to come along," he said.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 541-776-4492, or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.