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Democrats still control Oregon Legislature, minus Bates' seat

SALEM — Republicans, by the thinnest of margins, managed to grab one seat from the Democrats in the Oregon Senate, while the ratio remained the same in the state House.

Results from the 2016 general election enable Democrats to still dominate the Legislature, though they are one seat short of a supermajority in each chamber that would have enabled them to pass laws more easily.

The Democrats' one-seat loss in the Senate, which also cost the party its supermajority there, was of the seat previously occupied by Sen. Alan Bates, who died of an apparent heart attack Aug. 5 while on a fishing trip. Retired Southern Oregon University administrator Kevin Talbert is filling in the remainder of the term until January of the seat representing the 3rd District in southwestern Oregon.

Former Ashland mayor and car dealership owner Alan DeBoer, a Republican, gets to go to the Oregon State Capitol for the next legislative session by edging out Democratic candidate Tonia Moro by only 1 percent, or 535 votes.

"It's going to be a challenge going up there," DeBoer told  KOBI-TV. "We'll be in the minority, and the Democrats will still have control. But I'm used to that, working across party lines, and I think we can accomplish some things."

The loss of Bates' former seat to the Republicans dropped the Democrats' control of the Senate from 18-12 to 17-13 seats. The Democrats maintained their 35-25 edge in the House, one short of a supermajority there.

Another close Senate race was in the 5th District along the central coast, where incumbent Arnie Roblan, a Democrat, held on with only a 1 percent margin, beating Republican Dick Anderson by only 294 votes, according to the secretary of state's office.

In the House of Representatives, the closest race was in the 51st District, with newcomer Janelle Bynum, an African-American, edging Republican Lori Chavez-Deremer by 2 percent. Incumbent Democrat Shemia Fagan didn't run for re-election.

Oregon voters returned a record 2.02 million ballots in the Nov. 8 general election, Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins announced on Thursday.

The previous record was 1.84 million ballots returned for the 2008 general election.

The return figure accounted for 78.9 percent of all ballots mailed to eligible voters. That is fewer, however, than the 82.8 percent voting rate in 2012 and 85.7 percent in 2008.