Suzanne Weber. Photo courtesy of the Suzanne Weber campaign
Republican Suzanne Weber has pulled ahead in the race for House District 32. The initial batch of results after 8 p.m. showed that her Democratic opponent Debbie Boothe-Schmidt was ahead by 98 votes, but as more results were counted, Weber quickly overtook her opponent.
With more votes counted, Wednesday morning showed Weber with a lead of 20,788 votes, or 53.89%, to Boothe-Schmidt's 17,701 or 45.88%.
With her victory, Weber has flipped a house district held by Democrats since 2003. Her win also dashed hopes by Oregon's Democratic Party that the legislature could achieve a walkout-proof majority. Weber also secured the nomination of the Independent Party of Oregon and the state's Libertarian party.
"Congratulations Suzanne Weber for becoming our new state representative," Boothe-Schmidt said in a statement conceding the race. "I want to thank the working people of this district who supported me, from teachers, to nurses, to businesses owners and the dozens of volunteers."
The race saw more than $2.5 million in spending between the two candidates, with Weber reporting at least $1.2 million in contributions to her candidacy.
House District 32, often associated with Oregon’s North Coast, encompasses all of Clatsop County and portions of Tillamook and Washington counties, including Banks, Gales Creek, Timber, and portions of Manning and Buxton.
Many Tillamook citizens, as well as long-time county residents, may remember that Weber began her political career by being elected to the city council in 2002. In 2010, voters installed her as Tillamook’s mayor, a position she still holds.
In an interview with Weber during the primary season, Weber outlined why she was running.
“I’m running because I just plain became angry,” Weber said. “I didn’t feel we (north coast residents) were being listened to -- that our opinions weren’t valuable enough for our House representative (Mitchell) to take them to Salem. I thought about it and if you want to change something bad enough and don’t see anyone coming forward to do it, you have to step up yourself and take on that responsibility.”
“I have the time and energy and I feel I can do a good job,” she continued. “(Senator) Betsy Johnson (D-District 16-Scappoose) has been our hero but she’s been pulling this load by herself. There needs to be a concerted effort coming from Oregon’s north coast.”
In 2000, after spending 30 years as an elementary school teacher, at age 53 she and her sister-in-law, who already worked together running a cake and catering business, decided to open a retail shop in downtown Tillamook that sold kitchen products and decorative items.
The store eventually morphed into a clothing and full-knitting store that also had a cafe that served espresso. It closed in 2008.
“There was quite a bit of turmoil between 9/11 and 2008, so we decided to wrap it up and not do it anymore,” Weber said. “I became involved in city politics in 2002 and when the mayor decided to retire I decided to run for mayor. I always told my kids in the classroom that when I grow up I want to be mayor. Now, I’m in my 10th year.”
Weber said that during her 18 years working in city hall, she learned that the most important thing one can do as an elected official is never let your guard down.
You have to pay attention to your constituents all the time, pay attention to the city budget, to city projects which require you to be vigilant, and to encourage every city leader, whether he or she is an elected official or part of the city’s administration, she said.
“Sometimes you have to be the third-grade teacher and assert yourself and tell them how things are going to go, including staying off of social media with personal opinions,” Weber said. “Whatever it might be, you have to make sure they understand and comply and that’s the way it’s got to be.”
Current House District 32 State Representative Tiffiny Mitchell weighed in as well, congratulating Weber on her victory. "Congratulations to all the winners of last night's election, including our new state representative, who will assume the seat in January. Everyone had put in a great race," she said.