Paige Clarkson, left (Courtesy/Paige Clarkson) and Spencer Todd, right (Courtesy/Gavin Mahaley) are running for Marion County district attorney.
This article was updated Wednesday around 5:10 p.m. after Spencer Todd said he conceded the race for Marion County district attorney to Paige Clarkson following the latest ballot counts.
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson appears to have won re-election after a fresh ballot count Wednesday showed her ahead of challenger Spencer Todd, a public defender.
Todd conceded the race Wednesday after viewing the latest counts, which had Clarkson ahead with 25,834 votes, 52.9% to his 23,014 votes.
Clarkson, 48, ran unopposed for district attorney in the 2018 May election and was set to take over in January 2019, but was appointed to the post three months early to replace Walt Beglau when he stepped down. She was previously a Marion County deputy district attorney from 1999 until 2018.
Todd, 33, previously worked at the Marion County Circuit Court as a courtroom clerk, filing clerk and jury coordinator before starting law school, during which he clerked for multiple defense attorneys. He worked as a court-appointed lawyer in Polk County after graduating in 2013 and has done so in Marion County since 2015.
He said he has done pro bono legal work for a number of cases and consultations in the past five years, representing victims - such as women who obtained restraining orders their partners contested - and people objecting to their family members or others seeking guardianship over them.
"It saddens me that our movement has fallen short. So many supporters of change knocked on doors, emailed their friends, called voters, and donated to this campaign. While our effort to change the course of public safety in Marion County has been unsuccessful, our shared vision will carry on," Todd said in a text. "We will never stop working together to give people the help they need. We will never stop trying to change a system that is unfair and inequitable."
Todd added that public safety should be about using all available tools to help people get their lives on track and to "make the justice system work for everyone in our community."
"Many people in Marion County have high hopes that Clarkson’s office can do a better job to reduce crime and get people help. I wish her the best in that endeavor. My heartfelt thanks goes out to my supporters, my parents, and my wonderful wife, Kari, who was with me every step of this journey," he said.
Clarkson said in a text late Wednesday afternoon she did not have anything to add beyond a statement her campaign released around midnight on election night.
“For the first time in nearly 40 years, we had a stark choice in this election for district attorney, and it is humbling to know voters want me to continue standing up to crime and working hard for victims," Clarkson wrote in the statement.
According to the statement, Clarkson pledged to continue holding violent offenders accountable while still showing compassion for those with addiction and mental illness.
"We have more work to do and more ways we can improve our public safety systems, especially as we climb out of two very difficult pandemic years. But I’m prepared for this hard work and inspired by the support I have received," she wrote in the statement.
The campaign has been costly, with Clarkson and Todd so far spending a combined $391,147 for a nonpartisan office in which there has rarely been a contested race.
State campaign finance records showed that as of Tuesday, Clarkson, had raised $233,400 in contributions, with about one-fourth coming from a single source – the Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee. Clarkson reported the Salem-based committee has spent $56,350 on her behalf, including a $15,250 expense on April 29 for “mailer.” She has spent $142,428 on her campaign.
Todd has raised $283,740 in contributions to date. He has spent $248,719 on his campaign.
Tensions grew in the race in early May when two mailers promoting Clarkson’s re-election prompted 11 criminal defense attorneys to claim she defamed them. The mailers also drew concerns from civil rights activist and the state’s chief justice.
The fliers took aim at the attorneys and others who have made cash contributions to Todd.
Eight leading public defenders from across the state asked Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum last Thursday to withdraw her endorsement of Clarkson’s re-election. Rosenblum told Salem Reporter she would take no public action because Clarkson apologized.
This Saturday, nearly two dozen past presidents of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Saturday asked Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to put out a statement disavowing perceived attacks on criminal defense work by Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson.
Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.
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