Two candidates who opposed Douglas County’s plan to expand its jail win primary elections for 3rd District seat

photo by: Video screenshot/Justice Ticket election party

Shannon Portillo, right, Democratic candidate for the Douglas County Commission's 3rd District seat, with her partner, Jevan Bremby, left, speaks to supporters during an online election party on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020.

Two candidates who strongly opposed Douglas County’s plan to expand its jail appear set to face off in a general election this fall.

Pam McDermott and Shannon Portillo Tuesday night held strong leads in the primary elections in the Republican and Democratic races, respectively, for the Douglas County Commission 3rd District seat.

McDermott said the results showed voters did not support the county’s plan to expand its jail.

“It seems like a lot of people across Douglas County made a statement,” McDermott said. “I’m excited about that.”

In the unofficial final results, McDermott received about 55% of the vote in her race and Portillo received about 57% in hers. McDermott faced Republican Ron Thacker, while Portillo was facing Democratic candidate Karen Willey. However, more votes may come in the next few days because the county saw a massive increase in request to vote through the mail. Any ballots cast through the mail postmarked by Aug. 4 will be counted.

Pam McDermott

McDermott said she was excited by the results as a first-time candidate for public office and she was thankful for all the people who helped her in the election. Meanwhile, Portillo said she was honored to earn the support of Democratic voters.

Portillo also echoed McDermott’s sentiment about the jail expansion project. Noting county voters rejected a plan to expand the jail in 2018, Portillo said she believed voters reiterated that again on Tuesday.

“I think we really have seen a big push for criminal justice reform,” Portillo said. “I’m excited to get through the general election and start working for some real systemic change.”

Both McDermott and Portillo are connected to the local faith-based activist group Justice Matters, which has long opposed Douglas County’s plan to expand the jail. In January, the County Commission unanimously approved the controversial $29.6 million project, which would add up to 112 beds to the facility. McDermott and Portillo both previously told the Journal-World they believed the County Commission should have looked for more ways to decrease the inmate population in the jail instead of moving forward with a jail expansion project.

McDermott and Portillo will face each other in a general election in November. The winner will replace Republican Michelle Derusseau, who chose not to run for reelection.


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