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Council race may not be over yet

Medford City Council candidate Jim Herndon may call for a recount because ballot returns show him trailing by just 65 votes against incumbent Clay Bearnson.

“We’re waiting for the final tally before we decide,” he said. “I want to wait before I throw in the hand grenade.”

Bearnson leads with 3,101 votes, or 50.28 percent, to Herndon’s 3,036, or 49.23 percent, though the official results will not be finalized until Nov. 26.

“I was real surprised it came this close against an incumbent,” he said.

An automatic recount is called by election officials when the difference between the candidates amounts to one-fifth of 1 percent of the total votes, or in this case about 12 votes.

The vote typically doesn’t change much in recounts.

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said she hadn’t calculated how much it would cost to conduct a recount.

In the 2010 race between the late Sen. Alan Bates and his opponent, Dave Dotterrer, a recount cost up to $25,000, though there were far more votes in that election.

Herndon, who says he lives on a fixed income, could ask for a recount, but he’d have to pay for it because the vote gap is more than one-fifth of 1 percent.

Voters in Ward 2, which encompasses southwest Medford, were concerned about property crimes, said Herndon, who had a $200 bike stolen from his front porch.

“Clay didn’t get out there and talk about that,” he said.

Bearnson said he was surprised at the outcome and gave kudos to Herndon.

“I really have no idea how it came that close,” he said. “He (Jim) ran a strong campaign.”

Bearnson said he put out lawn signs and got the Mail Tribune endorsement but acknowledged he didn’t put the same effort into the campaign, citing a busy work schedule.

“I went out and knocked on 1,500 doors last time,” he said.

He said he managed to squeak by with an 80-vote lead in the 2014 election.

This time he has a smaller lead, and he said he’ll just have to wait until the final results are in, or wait for a recount.

“I’m still not going to do the happy dance,” he said.

Bearnson was the first councilor in the state to open a cannabis store, called Oregon Farmacy, which is located in downtown Medford.

He also owns the Gypsy Blues Bar downtown.

During his time on the council, Bearnson has championed removing city laws against medical and recreational marijuana sales.

After he took office in 2014, he declared he had a medical marijuana card and hoped to open a dispensary. He grows marijuana, which is sold at his store.

Herndon retired from careers in police and the military.

Both Bearnson and Herndon are concerned about homelessness, but Herndon also supports a 750-bed jail so that police have somewhere to put homeless people who violate the law.

Herndon said he’s got nothing against Bearnson as a councilor but just feels he could do a better job.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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