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Ballot measures played little role in mobilizing voters in state Senate race

Local political analysts Wednesday said controversial ballot measures legalizing recreational marijuana and requiring labeling of products with genetically modified organisms played less of a role than expected in mobilizing voters Tuesday in the Oregon Senate District 3 race.

Early results Wednesday morning had incumbent Alan Bates, D-Medford, beating Ashland resident David Dotterrer with 26,566 votes, or 51.84 percent, to Dotterrer's 22,812 votes, or 44.51 percent.

The 2014 election was Dotterrer's second defeat by Bates, who came out of the 2010 election with a mere 300-vote lead, sparking a recount that ultimately confirmed his victory.

This cycle's Ballot Measures 91 and 92, which would legalize pot and require GMO labeling, respectively, had been expected by some analysts to bring out large numbers of voters, particularly for the Democrats.

John Watt, a Medford-based political analyst, told the Mail Tribune in October that he thought the food labeling issue in particular could generate a large turnout.

Measure 92 was ultimately defeated, along with Dotterrer. "I think a lot of dynamics changed in that (Bates-Dotterrer) race," Watt said. "I don't think the measures had anything to do with it at all."

Ashland-based analyst Cathy Shaw said that while there was definitely an effort to coordinate Bates' campaign with the ballot measures, heavily backed by progressive organizers, she didn't think the measures had significantly contributed to turnout.

"The people working on the Bates campaign tend to be working (primarily) on the Bates campaign, and happen to support Measure 91 or GMO labeling," she said.

Watt expressed concern over the race's low voter turnout, which he said was the lowest since 1998, making it the second-lowest since the state started tracking voter turnout in 1960.

"Everybody performed exactly the same in this cycle as they did in 2010," Shaw said. "Basically you had more Republicans who came out at the end than Democrats. The same thing happened this time, except there was a lower voter turnout, so the percentages were skewed."

Wednesday's numbers gave the race a 3 percent undervote — the percentage who didn't vote for any candidate.

"People typically don't vote because they don't like, don't know or don't care," she said.

This time around, it may have been a case of voters just not liking either candidate. Dotterrer has received significant criticism for a series of negative TV ads and mailers about Bates that had been paid for by supporting third parties.

Bates himself drew criticism last week for another series of ads, paid for by the Democratic Party of Oregon and Planned Parenthood, that incorrectly stated Dotterrer's stance on background checks for gun purchases and a woman's right to choose.

Still, Shaw said she thought the ads criticizing Bates had sparked the bulk of the voter backlash. "I would guess all 3 percent were on Dotterrer this time," she said.

Art Kreuger, a 78-year-old Pacific Green Party candidate from Jacksonville, drew 1,809 votes, or 3.53 percent. Kreuger had officially dropped his bid in October — too late to remove his name from the ballot — after a Mail Tribune story revealed he had provided false information in a resume filed with state elections officials.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.

Senator Alan Bates and Darryl Nicolay of Jacksonville photograph themselves during a Democratic political gathering on election night. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell