As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, George Murdock had a 500-vote lead over challenger Rick Pullen in his bid for another term on the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners.
That lead is enough to secure the position after an extended eight month campaign for the job between the two candidates.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State website, Murdock had 50.8 percent of the vote, or 9,386 votes, to Pullen’s 48 percent, or 8,862.
Murdock held an election night gathering at Sister’s Cafe in downtown Pendleton, with about 70 family members and friends joining him to hear results.
Murdock thanked his family for supporting him through his campaign the past nine months, and said he was proud to have led a positive campaign.
“That’s been fairly easy, because Umatilla County is in a great place,” he said. “There’s certainly more we need to do, but financially, we’re stable, we have a wonderful staff who care about their jobs and the people they serve, and we are focusing on the things people tell us our important.”
“In the end it isn’t always about needing more money, but rather about establishing priorities and sticking to them.”
Still, with the close race as of 8 p.m., Murdock noted that it had been a difficult election year for incumbent commissioners around the state. His fellow commissioner Larry Givens was defeated by John Shafer in May and a write-in campaign for the incumbent came up well short Tuesday night.
“Nine strong incumbents lost in the primaries,” he said. “Over half the commissioners have changed in Oregon in the past two years.”
But because Murdock has said this will be his last term, he feels this will also be his most productive.
“One of the problems with elected officials is the fact that they have to be elected, and the idea of election is always somewhat in the equation,” Murdock said. “Since I’ve made it clear I plan to serve just two full terms, I can simply focus on what is best for the people of Umatilla County during the next four years, without ever wondering about re-election.”
He said before planning what will happen four years down the road, he will wait to see what comes out of the charter review process.
Pullen held a gathering at Abby’s Legendary Pizza, with about 20 family members and friends supporting him.
A former manager in the taxation and assessment department, he said he had been honored to campaign for the spot.
“It’s not just about the needs of the county, but the people of the county,” he said. “It’s been a huge joy. We’ve made a lot of friends — some that will be lifelong friends.”
He added that he would still continue to serve the county any way he could.
“We’ll still continue doing our volunteer stuff,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot to offer the county. Whether it’s me in the seat or someone else, I think those ideas need to be paid attention to and dealt with.”
He added that, as a lifelong Umatilla County resident, he wasn’t going anywhere.
“This is home,” he said. “We want it to be great.”
Murdock has held the position since a special election in 2013 to replace Bill Hansell, who stepped down from the Board of Commissioners after being elected to the Oregon Senate. Murdock was elected to a full term the following May.
He won more than 45 percent of the vote in the May 2018 primary, but Pullen (31 percent) and Tom Bailor (24 percent) kept him from wrapping up a second term then.