Twelve hours after the first results came in, Tom Kress accepted victory in a close race for Douglas County commissioner.
The Roseburg businessman defeated 26-year-old Army National Guard veteran Alek Skarlatos and six other candidates Tuesday by a margin of 38 percent to 35.1 percent in unofficial final results from the Douglas County Elections Office released Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday night, both Kress and Skarlatos weren’t ready to call the race. Kress remained cautiously optimistic, while Skarlatos said he was in for a long night.
“I think the trend looks good,” Kress said Tuesday night. “It’s awfully early yet, but hopefully it’s not a long night.”
He said he’s “not one of those guys who’s very comfortable with a small lead” and he hoped to see it grow through the night.
It was a long night for Kress, however.
“I feel pretty good about it right now,” Kress said Wednesday morning on his way to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners meeting, sounding like he hadn’t slept much.
He said his governing style will be similar to his attitude as votes came in last night. “Let’s call it thoughtful,” Kress said.
“I want to thank all the supporters and all the people who voted, whether they voted for me or not,” he said. “That they got out and voted is a big deal. We had a pretty good turnout.”
Kress said he believes he won support because of his solid life and business experience. He said the first thing he wants to do as a commissioner is to “bring together this community a little bit more.”
“I think we’re divided a bit, and we don’t have to be like the national people,” he said.
He said he’s always felt an ability to bring people together was one of his strong points.
Commissioner Chris Boice, who endorsed Kress, said he’s excited for him.
“I’m excited for Douglas County. It’s going to help us get some more work done,” Boice said.
Skarlatos said Tuesday night Kress’s 2-percent lead made the race still incredibly close.
“We have a lot of great people and I think we’re going to have a better response from the exterior of the county, so I’m still very optimistic, and it looks like we’re in for a long night,” Skarlatos said.
He said he wasn’t surprised by Kress’s lead.
“He’s outspending us by 2 to 1 and took his campaign really negative,” he said.
Skarlatos and Kress were the top two fundraisers throughout the campaign.
Kress, the owner of Waldron’s Outdoor Sports in Roseburg, had strong business support, including from the timber industry. He collected close to $150,000 in campaign contributions.
Skarlatos collected just over half that, around $85,000, largely from individual donors. His claim to fame is the part he played helping thwart a terrorist on a Paris-bound train in 2015. He went on to receive multiple medals and star in a Clint Eastwood movie about the event, called “The 15:17 to Paris.”
Coming in third in the race was Jeremy Salter, who garnered 7 percent of the vote. Salter is the husband of the Democratic candidate for House District 2, Megan Salter. Ashley Hicks won 4.7 percent, Alyssa McConnel won 5.7 percent, Richard Vander Velden 1.5 percent, and James Hoyt 2.6 percent. Daniel Loomis won 5.2 percent, despite having dropped out of the race and thrown his support to Kress.