November 05, 2002 11:00 pm
John Lamoreau ().
John Lamoreau ().

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

John Howard, for 16 years a Union County commissioner, was defeated by newcomer John Lamoreau, who has never held elective office.

The final unofficial tally from Tuesday's election showed Lamoreau with 5,269 votes, 52 percent of the total, and Howard with 4,669, 47 percent — a 600-vote difference.

Lamoreau led all the way by a similar margin, garnering 51 percent of the votes in the early returns.

"I'm exhausted and I'm exhilarated," Lamoreau said this morning. "This was a long campaign and hard campaign. Out of 10,000 votes, the margin of victory was only 600. We need to pull together as a county, work together as commissioners and as citizens.

"We've got a lot of issues. In the last decade, Union County has made progress, but not everybody has participated in it — with numbers below the poverty line. We need to bring them along with us in the next decade."

Lamoreau also led in the amount of money earned, raising more than $22,000, with $9,951 of that his own money, according to the most recent reports filed with the Union County Clerk's Office. Howard raised $8,539.

Lamoreau, manager of Grande Ronde Retirement Residence, also led in spending, giving up $21,924 to Howard's $6,186 — mostly for political advertising and signs.

He said many voters said that "they really liked the thought of a change and a different perspective."

Howard, who will end his service in January, said this morning, "I'm proud of our campaign and all the supporters, the people working on our campaign. I thought we did an excellent job, sending a positive message of the successes over the years."

The Imbler resident said he has not decided what he will do next.

"I'm very proud of the work I've done over the last 16 years," Howard said. "I'm going to take some time and look at my options."

Lamoreau and his wife, Nena Jones, a registered nurse at Grande Ronde Hospital, have lived in La Grande since 1987. The couple have two sons.

Lamoreau said he will begin to work on a schedule that will allow him to divide his time between his management responsibilities at the retirement center and his job as county commissioner.

The newly-elected commissioner attributed much of his success to the "two dozen younger people — ages 14 to 25 — who worked with me on this campaign. They took Saturdays off to go door to door. I was absolutely amazed at the hard work they put in."