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Wheeler headed to fifth term as Medford mayor

Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler appeared to be headed for a fifth term at the helm of Jackson County's hub, grabbing an early 3,000-vote lead Tuesday in his re-election bid over challenger John Anhorn despite not mounting a campaign.

Returns released before 10 p.m. by the Jackson County Elections Office showed Wheeler with 15,607 votes, or 55 percent. Anhorn had 12,492 votes for 44 percent and there were 161 write-in votes to round up the tally.

Wheeler initially said he was going to step down, then he opted to run for a fifth term after Anhorn filed for the seat, but Wheeler did not actively campaign for the seat and did not spend any money.

Wheeler said he was excited and pleased to stay at the helm if the early returns stand.

"I was looking at this as a referendum on what I've done and what we've done as a city," Wheeler said. "I think that's a nice compliment."

Wheeler said he feels excited and energized to be working with three new city councilors, a new city manager in Brian Sjothun and new Planning Director Matt Brinkley.

Anhorn said he commended Wheeler for his accomplishments in the office these past 12 years.

"If people wanted a change, they would have voted for me," Anhorn said.

However, Anhorn said he believes the early returns were not enough to call the election, saying "there's a 3,000 (vote) difference between us, but there are still a lot of votes out there. We'll know more in the morning."

Wheeler praised Anhorn for "running a really good campaign."

"Honestly, compared to the national scene, we had a very civilized campaign," he said.

Wheeler, an optometrist, was first elected to the nonpartisan post in 2004 and ran unopposed in 2012. Anhorn, 74, is a retired banker who has never run for elected office.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Gary Wheeler