District Attorney Election Results: Spencer Todd, Paige Clarkson
This story will continue to be updated as new results come in. Since ballots could be mailed out on Election Day starting this year, election officials warn the winners may not be known for several days. Election offices expect the vote tally after Tuesday to rise more than in previous years due to valid ballots arriving at counting locations up to seven days after the election.
Tuesday night’s election data from Marion County shows incumbent Paige Clarkson continuing to hold the lead over Salem-area attorney Spencer Todd in the race for Marion County prosecutor.
Early results put Clarkson ahead of his challenger, and the updated ballot tally around 11:30 p.m. showed Clarkson with 53% of the vote; Todd with 47%. Another batch of results are expected to be released after 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Clarkson, in a press release sent out overnight by Friends of Paige Clarkson, claimed victory.
“I am truly honored to continue serving the people of Marion County,” Clarkson said in the statement. “For the first time in nearly 40 years, we had a tough choice in this election for district attorney, and it’s humbling to know that voters want me to continue to fight crime and work hard for the victims.”
Todd did not concede and will await additional county results at 5 p.m. Wednesday, he told the Statesman Journal Wednesday morning.
If one of the two collects more than 50% of the vote, he will become a district attorney and avoid a second round in November.
For the first time in at least 38 years, residents of Marion County had two options on the ballot for the county’s top lawyer in Oregon’s May 17 primary. And the nonpartisan race has become one of the meanest in the state.
Clarkson, 48, was nominated by Governor Kate Brown when her predecessor, Walt Beglau, announced his retirement in 2018. She ran unopposed the same year and was elected in January 2019.
Todd, 33, announced his candidacy for the job last fall.
Learn more about the candidates:Paige Clarkson vs. Spencer Todd
Todd was born and raised in Salem and spent summers in high school working at the Marion County Courthouse. After graduating from South Salem High School, he followed in his parents’ footsteps to become a lawyer. He received his law degree from Willamette University Law School in 2013. He currently lives in downtown Salem with his wife, Kari, who works for Nike.
Todd, who worked as a public defender in Marion County for eight years, shrugged off comments from critics about his experience. He says his current career will allow him to better manage the district attorney’s office because he can anticipate defense attorneys’ strategies.
Todd said he also brings an individual client mentality to victims to help protect and advocate for them and have important conversations about their cases.
“As a prosecutor, you’re not the victim’s attorney, but you’re the closest thing to being the victim’s attorney because they’ll probably only ask you to answer their questions,” did he declare.
In an interview last month, Todd told the Statesman Journal that the district attorney’s office needed a makeover in the way it handles some of its cases. While jail may be the answer to high-level crime, Todd said, more funds should be directed to helping offenders deal with their issues, including treatment for drug addiction and mental illness. This approach can help prevent people from reoffending and keep the community safe.
“Not everyone is just a villain. Some people, if you give them a chance, will come back as productive members of society,” Todd said. “We have to do a better job.”
Clarkson, who lives with her husband and four children in South Salem, said she has a vested interest in the safety and well-being of the community. She says her decision to run again is more than a desire to do her job – it’s an obligation.
“If not me, then who?” she says. “I’m the person who knows how to do this job and I’m not going to walk away from it now when the going gets tough.”
Clarkson graduated from Willamette University College of Law in 1999 and has worked with the Marion County District Attorney’s Office since 1997. She started as a legal assistant, then rose to line counsel, senior assistant district attorney, and trial team leader for the drug squad. .
Clarkson said his two decades of experience as a prosecutor, along with his crime-fighting philosophy, are “trusted and tried and tested.”
During her tenure, Clarkson said she prioritized tackling violent crime — including those against children and women — and protecting the most vulnerable members of the community.
She said her office also prioritizes cases considered low-level violations, including property damage, burglary and trespassing.
“What makes a community feel unsafe are these types of infractions,” she said. “If I don’t focus on that and make it a priority for us to pursue, those little things become big things.”
Clarkson was criticized by area attorneys for postponers late in the campaign who appeared to vilify defense attorneys.
A sender had a picture of Todd and said, “You know a man by the company he guards…so why does Spencer Todd pale with defense attorneys and convicted felons?” He goes on to list 11 local lawyers by name.
After local attorneys demanded an apology, Clarkson apologized to those who interpreted the sender as an attack on the criminal defense community.
“I can see how they saw it that way. It wasn’t intended that way. It wasn’t intentional personally and I regret the way it was interpreted. I’m so sorry it was that way. that people interpreted that,” she said.
She added: “I think when you look at both campaigns, one of us is backed by criminal defense lawyers – that’s the main list of his supporters – and one of us isn’t. no. And while I appreciate the work they do, and I think it’s really important in our community, they have a different (idea) of what it means to promote public safety in our community,” said Clarkson.
Shortly after, she sent a second mail. He said: “You have a choice…Do you want an experienced district attorney protecting you? Or someone who is backed by criminals and those who want to dismantle the police?”
Todd told the Statesman Journal he was advocating for more policing, as well as increased police funding.
“This has gone from implicit attacks on our integrity to an outright lie,” Todd wrote in a message to the Statesman.
The shippers caused backlash and caused a rift between Clarkson and members of the legal community. Last week, Oregon Justice Resource Center Executive Director Bobbin Singh resigned from the Chief Justice’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, an advisory committee responsible for helping establish roles, policies, processes and court services in the state, due to Clark’s continued inclusion in the group. Clarkson is listed as a committee member.
- Age: 48 years old
- Residence: Salem
- Family: Husband, Jason Van Meter; four children
- Occupation: Marion County District Attorney
- Previous elected offices: Marion County prosecutor since 2019, first appointed in 2018
- Campaign contributions: $175,847.50
- Total for the campaign: $40,882.32
- Age: 33 years old
- Residence: Salem
- Family: Wife, Kari
- Occupation: Public defender
- Previous elective offices: None
- Campaign contributions: $205,877.71
- Total for the campaign: $24,242.50
Virginia Barreda is the breaking news and public safety reporter for the Statesman Journal. She can be reached at 503-399-6657 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @vbarreda2