County's I-5 corridor gives edge to Obama

A swath of Jackson County extending from southwest Medford to the California border voted solidly for President-elect Barack Obama, a recently released precinct breakdown of the Nov. 4 election reveals.

A majority of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Pinehurst and four precincts in Medford went for Obama, along with Applegate and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs center in White City, according to the Jackson County Elections Center.

In 2004, only nine of 52 precincts in the county went Democratic, but this election 17 precincts went blue, giving Obama a slim 47-vote edge over Sen. John McCain.

"It sounds to me like we have a blue corridor going," said Paulie Brading, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democratic Central Committee.

She said the wins in precincts south of Medford correspond with some of the anecdotal reports received from volunteers during the campaign.

Precinct 2 in northwest Ashland came in with 86.22 percent voting for Obama — the most support of any precinct in the county.

The president-elect's weakest support in the county came from Precinct 34 in rural Eagle Point, where only 29.7 voted for the Democrat.

Many of the precincts that voted for Obama also generally voted for Jeff Merkley, who won the U.S. senatorial race against incumbent Gordon Smith.

The highest voter turnout at 93.78 percent was recorded at the Rogue Valley Manor — Precinct 52. The Manor, which voted for McCain, historically has the highest turnout of any precinct in the county, followed closely by precincts in Ashland. In Jackson County, the overall turnout was a record 85.18.

White City posted the lowest turnout of any precinct in the county at 72.68. In past elections, the precinct at Southern Oregon University had the lowest turnout, but this time 79 percent of voters cast ballots, most of the them for Obama.

Three of the precincts in Medford that gave a majority of votes for Obama also had turnouts that were less than the county average.

While Obama won the county, Republican incumbents in other races held onto their seats locally.

Brading said the county historically has been a Republican stronghold, but she sees a change with this election.

"I think the demographics are changing a lot in the county," she said.

Mark Ness, who last Friday was named chairman of the Jackson County Republican Central Committee, said the Democrats excelled in voter registration for the election.

"The Republicans did a crappy job of registering voters, and the Democrats did a yeoman's job," he said.

Republicans had a shoestring budget in the presidential election as McCain invested time and money in other states, he said. As a result, the Republican Party locally was buying its own lawn signs.

McCain also ran a "pitiful campaign," said Ness. In addition, Sen. Gordon Smith's negative campaign turned off a lot of Republicans, he said.

"We had to do a lot of encouraging to get people to vote," he said.

A last-minute get-out-the-vote campaign at the Republican headquarters in Medford led to a surge of voting in the days before the election and helped keep local Republicans in office, Ness said.

He said the county is turning a little bluer because of the migration of Californians to this area.

As the new chairman locally, Ness said he plans to work more on grass-roots organization and develop more relationships with local businesses to drum up money for the Republican Party.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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