Democratic candidates hold large leads in Douglas County Commission races

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Douglas County Democratic Party

Shannon Portillo, candidate for the Douglas County Commission's 3rd District seat, speaks to supporters during the Douglas County Democratic Party's virtual election watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Two progressive candidates who opposed Douglas County’s plan to expand its jail appeared set to win election to the County Commission.

In the early ballot returns, Democratic candidates Shannon Reid and Shannon Portillo held strong leads over their Republican challengers for the County Commission’s 2nd and 3rd district seats, respectively.

“I’m incredibly grateful for how much our community showed up to help organize alongside us and really show Douglas County is ready for change,” Portillo said while addressing supporters during a virtual election watch party.

Later during the watch party, Reid said she was excited to be elected alongside Portillo. For the primary election, Reid formed a coalition with Portillo and Douglas County district attorney candidate Cooper Overstreet called the “Justice Ticket.” Overstreet did not win his primary, though.

“The campaigns we ran together … was a life-changing experience for me, personally, and something that makes me feel so proud to be from this community,” Reid said of the campaign with Portillo.

With all ballots counted Tuesday, Reid had received 11,283 votes, or about 62.06% of the ballots cast, while Republican Brett LaRue had received 6,794 votes, or 37.37%. Portillo had received 12,841 votes, or about 60.5%, while Republican Pam McDermott had received 8,341 votes, about 39.29%.

However, with so many ballots being cast through mail, some votes may not be counted until Friday, which is the final day advance mail ballots postmarked on Tuesday can be counted. Additionally, the results will not be final until they are canvassed on Nov. 16, which is when provisional ballots are either counted or discarded.

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Douglas County Democratic Party

Shannon Reid, Democratic candidate for the Douglas County Commission’s 2nd District seat, speaks to supporters during a virtual election watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

If the current results hold, Reid and Portillo would join Chair Patrick Kelly on the County Commission, giving the Democratic Party unanimous representation on the commission.

Portillo’s victory would be significant, as the 3rd District has traditionally been represented by Republicans. According to the Douglas County Clerk’s Office, since 1928, Democrats have served in the 3rd District seat for only three terms. The last Democratic commissioner for the 3rd District was I.J. Stoneback, who served from 1972 to 1976.

Portillo noted that history while speaking to supporters.

“I’m really excited to see some Democratic representation on this side of town and this side of our county,” Portillo said. “I’m excited to get in there and start pushing for the policies we’ve been talking about throughout this entire election.”

Reid’s victory is somewhat expected, as LaRue did not appear to actively campaign for the position.

Prior to the primary election, LaRue told the Journal-World he was dropping out of the race and endorsing incumbent Democratic Commissioner Nancy Thellman.

But Reid defeated Thellman in the August primary election and LaRue told the Journal-World at the time he was not sure he would stay out of the race. However, as the months went by, LaRue did not respond to the Journal-World’s repeated requests to clarify whether he was campaigning.

Both Reid and Portillo previously told the Journal-World their opposition to the county’s controversial plan to expand its jail, which was initially approved by the County Commission in January, inspired them to run for election.

However, the project was abandoned before they were elected. The current County Commission voted unanimously in September to discontinue the project.

In separate news releases, Portillo and Reid both said they look forward to working on issues related to justice in the community.

“Moving forward, my priority remains what it has always been: working toward justice, safety, and change in Douglas County,” Reid said in the news release. “We can do better for one another, and I’m excited to get to work.”

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