PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An incredibly close race to fill Andrea Salinas’ seat in Oregon’s District 38 was certified early Monday night — and the winner earned the seat by 28 votes.

Daniel Nguyen edged Neelam Gupta in the Clackamas County race to be the Democratic nominee. Not only did Nguyen beat Gupta, he avoided an automatic recount by one single vote.

Oregon Secretary of State Communications Director Ben Morris said: “To trigger an automatic recount the difference between candidates must be “not more than one-fifth of one percent of the total votes cast” (ORS 258.290). In this race, that threshold is 27 votes or less. The certified results have the candidates separated by 28 votes, which falls outside the recount threshold.”

In other words, Gupta needed one more vote to trigger an automatic recount. Any candidate, including Gupta, can ask for a recount — but that candidate would have to pay for the recount.

Professor Jim Moore, the Director of Political Outreach for the Tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement, watched the House District 38 race unfold in slow motion.

“We usually get one or two every election, but just to see one that’s been developing, especially because about half the district is in Clackamas County,” Moore told KOIN 6 News. “It’s stunning to have a race that’s this close.”

Moore explained the Oregon law on recounts.

“According to the law you have to have recount if it is two-tenths of 1% or less. Right now, there is one vote that actually makes it more than two-tenths of 1%.”

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Gupta said, “I am confident in the Secretary of State’s audit. Given that, we are not prepared to pay for a recount at this time.”

Nguyen ended up with 6845 votes. Gupta had 6817. And there were 28 write-in votes.

Nguyen was elected to the Lake Oswego City Council in 2018. Gupta joined the Lake Oswego school board in 2020 after serving on the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. 

Nguyen issued a statement later Monday:

“After a very long wait, we learned this evening that I have won the Democratic primary in Oregon’s House District 38. A huge thank you to all our supporters and our team, and especially to my family and friends – You made this possible! Thank you also to Neelam Gupta, who ran a great race and will continue to enrich our community through her work and service on the Lake Oswego School Board.”

Nguyen will now face Republican Alistair Firmin in the November election.

The long count in Clackamas County

The nail-biter of an election would have been noteworthy in any election. But in this election, the ballot count in Clackamas County was slowed by smudged barcodes on the ballots that necessitated a hand count that slowed the results for weeks.

On May 24, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said the delay in counting the ballots was outrageous.

“Obviously I found this quite frustrating and, frankly, outrageous,” she said at that time. “My north star, though, as Secretary of State is to land this plane. Right now the only person legally authorized to land this plane under Oregon law is the Clerk.”

When KOIN 6 News spoke with Gupta and Nguyen on May 30, they said they were keeping their eyes straight ahead and had faith in the process.

“It’s just another exercise to build our endurance,” Nguyen told KOIN 6 News. “It is what it is. We have systems in place and we will get to the end and find out who the winner is.”

“I’m so grateful to the great public servants who are working tirelessly,” Gupta said. “This is democracy at work and proof that every voice and every vote matters.”

The current 38th District representative, Andrea Salinas, is now the Democratic nominee in Oregon’s new 6th District and will face the GOP’s Mike Erickson in the general election.