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Morgan scores near-outright win

Lily Morgan received more votes than any other candidate for Josephine County commissioner Tuesday, taking nearly 46 percent of the vote in a crowded eight-candidate race.

The former Grants Pass city councilor was far ahead of her nearest rivals in the race to replace outgoing Commissioner Cherryl Walker — but not quite far enough to win the outright majority needed to avoid a runoff in November.

Instead, the real battle for Position 3 was for second place between Bill Hunker and Ron Smith. Both men had more than 15 percent, with Hunker clinging to a 28-vote lead as of Wednesday morning.

Unless a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, a runoff between the top two vote-getters takes place in the November general election.

That's definitely the situation in the race for Position 2, where it appears incumbent Commissioner Keith Heck will face off against Dan DeYoung, president of Grants Pass City Council, in the November general election.

That race was close, too, with both men polling more than 19 percent of the vote. The next-closest candidate in the nine-candidate field was Toni Webb with nearly 10 percent.

Morgan, a Josephine County Parole and Probation Department supervisor, told the Daily Courier she was "humbled and honored." She made her comments during a post-election get-together at Taprock Northwest Grill.

"There's an awful lot of work to be done," she added. "We're going to find ways to be safe. We're going to bring jobs and work together in a way that's positive."

Hunker, a retired freelance TV producer for most of his career, was slightly ahead against Smith, a retired vehicle repair shop manager. Each candidate drew more than 3,700 votes, yet the margin between them Wednesday morning was just 28.

"I think for the name recognition I had, I'm not the least discouraged," Hunker said. "It was three months, four months getting my name out. It's name recognition. I didn't have hardly any."

Smith, meanwhile, said name recognition confusion with fellow contender Ray Smith, who got 6 percent, likely cost him hundreds of votes.

Heck, former director of the Gospel Rescue Mission, said he was happy to be one of the two to go on to the general election. He was the top vote-getter for Position 2, with 19.49 percent, compared with DeYoung's 19.21 percent — or 4,810 vs. 4,740 votes.

"The work continues," said Heck, who is seeking a second term. "Working full time as a commissioner does not leave a whole lot of time for campaigning."

County government is struggling financially: It has less than half the workforce it once did, in large part due to declining federal revenue, and is looking at reducing public safety programs even further unless new funding is found.

Heck said he expects DeYoung to run a clean campaign.

"I like him," he said. "It's tough to run against somebody you like."

For DeYoung it was a big turnaround from four years ago, when he ran against Heck but was edged out by Webb in the primary. This time, Webb came in third.

The former owner of All Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning was all grins Tuesday evening, as he celebrated with Morgan and others at Taprock.

"I'm real happy," he said. "I'm glad the primary's over. Now we can start settling into the general."

DeYoung said public safety and how to fund it was at the "top of the list" of issues ahead.

He also said he had a lot of respect for Heck and his fellow competitors.

"I have all the respect in the world for anybody who runs for office," he said.

Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3722 or shall@thedailycourier.com.