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Bates winning contentious race

In a race watched across Oregon, state Sen. Alan Bates appeared on his way to victory over Republican challenger Dave Dotterrer, leading by more than 3,000 votes in the District 3 contest.

"It looks like we are way up, and I hope it stays that way," said Bates, D-Medford, Tuesday evening at 4 Daughters Irish Pub, where he waited to hear the election results.

As of 11:40 p.m., Bates had 23,636 votes, or 51.7 percent, to Dotterrer's 20,497, or 44.8 percent. Although he withdrew from the race late last month, Pacific Green Party candidate Art Krueger garnered 1,527 votes.

Bates' apparent win, combined with the defeat of Republican incumbent Sen. Betsy Close in Benton County by Democratic Rep. Sara Gelser, means the Democrats will hold at least a 17-13 edge in the Senate.

That could grow: In Washington County, Democratic challenger Chuck Riley held a narrow lead over incumbent Republican Sen. Bruce Starr. Democrats also control the state House of Representatives and the governor's chair.

Dotterrer, a retired Marine Corps colonel, said late Tuesday that he was happy with how he had run his campaign and how the Republican Party had pulled together.

"It's disappointing to be down, but we'll just have to wait to see what the final numbers are," he said, later adding that he had no intention of conceding based on partial results.

With the majority in the Senate on the line, the Bates-Dotterrer race has been one of the most closely watched and expensive legislative races in Oregon.

Over the course of the election, Dotterrer brought in nearly $750,000 in campaign donations, while Bates accrued about $450,000, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.

"Even though we got outspent two or three to one, we ran a positive campaign and didn't go negative," said Bates, who finished with more than $100,000 still in his campaign account. "And I think voters started to figure that out."

During the 2010 Senate District 3 race,  Bates defeated Dotterrer by fewer than 300 votes, giving Democrats a one-seat majority in the Senate. Senate Republican leaders later requested a recount, which confirmed Bates’ victory.

This time around, the campaign has been equally competitive, if not slightly more negative. Dotterrer drew criticism for mailers and TV and radio ads which criticized Bates for failing to reform education in Oregon, stimulate the local economy and generate more jobs. However, Dotterrer argued that the mailers merely pointed out Bates’ voting record and his positions on various issues important to voters.

And in recent weeks, both Bates and Dotterrer were the victims of attack mailers and ads produced by independent political action committees. The Democratic Party of Oregon and Planned Parenthood lashed out at Dotterrer while Oregon Right to Life PAC circulated mailers saying that Bates supports abortion at all times during the full nine months of pregnancy.

Both Bates and Dotterrer said they had not endorsed and were not aware of the mailers being directed at the other.Bates said Tuesday that he had convinced some of the outside groups to stop the negative ads and told voters to ignore anything negative about Dotterrer.

Bates' commitment to running a positive campaign is one of the reasons why Mark Kellenbeck of Medford voted for him.

"There's a huge contrast between he (Bates) and his opponent," Kellenbeck said. "He's more of a statesman and more reasoned and seasoned."

Kellenbeck said he'd met Dotterrer and thought he was nice man who should have taken a different approach to his campaign.

If re-elected, Bates, a physician who has been a senator since 2004 and was previously a House representative, said he hopes to reduce poverty by increasing Oregon's minimum wage, increase — or at least maintain — K-12 funding, and provide additional support to college students.

"We need to be quick in our education system to start turning out the type of workers we need," he said Tuesday.

Reach reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt. 

Correction: The spelling of Rep. Sara Gelser's name has been corrected in this version.

Sen. Alan Bates, right, and campaign worker Chuck Keib react to the first news that Bates had taken a substantial lead in his campaign against Republican Dave Dotterrer. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell
The news was not good for Senate candidate Dave Dotterrer, right, and supporter John Watt as they checked election results Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch