Golden projected to edge out Sparacino in race for Oregon Senate

A voter drops her ballot in the box behind the Ashland Public Library on Nov. 8, 2022, as another waits their turn. Drew Fleming photo for
November 9, 2022

Plans to ‘keep communicating’ in effort to bridge ‘sharp divisions’ in District 3

By Holly Dillemuth,

State Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) is projected to win the District 3 Senate race against former Medford Police Chief and current Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino, a Republican.

As of Wednesday evening, Golden had accumulated 32,249 votes, or 52%, with Sparacino not far behind at 30,096, or 48%, with more votes, mostly mailed ballots, yet to be tallied. 

Jeff Golden

Golden, 72, was cautiously optimistic late Tuesday about his victory but more certain on Wednesday about securing a win over Sparacino. Golden has served as a Jackson County Commissioner and legislator, as well as a carpenter and contractor, journalist, river guide and host of the “Immense Possibilities” program on public television.  

Sparacino, 53, has served as mayor of Medford since January 2021, and had a lengthy career with Medford Police Department, including as police chief for three years.

“There’s still an indeterminate number of votes to come in but it doesn’t seem at all likely that there could be an upset to overcome that margin,” Golden said.  

“It’s great to win,” he added. “I’ve won races and I’ve lost races and winning is more fun. You get more validated by a sense of the community behind you.”

Golden was frank about challenges the state could face in his next term, addressing “real difficult budget conversations” but is also optimistic about meeting challenges.

“The federal money the last few years was pretty much one-time and artificial and we started spending some investments around housing and mental health and childcare and water that are going to be very difficult to continue,” Golden said. “A lot of us are looking for tax reform that asks more of the corporate sector individuals who’ve done pretty well these last few difficult years.

“That’s a huge national puzzle that we have to keep working on.”

He lauded prospective Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, projected to win the governor’s race by The Oregonian midday on Wednesday. The Associated Press said the race was too close to call, due to mailed ballots continuing to come in.

“It would’ve been a bigger challenge to serve with one of them,” Golden said, of Kotek’s challengers Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated Betsy Johnson.

Other goals he listed going into the next four years are ensuring reproductive rights for women, ridding the Rogue Valley of criminal cannabis operations, safeguarding Oregon from “mega fires” and supporting small businesses to boost community economies.

He’s also interested in addressing homelessness and helping find solutions for Southern Oregon University’s multimillion-dollar financial struggles at the state level.

Golden acknowledged the tight race between himself and Sparacino and a continuing need to reach “across the aisle” to voters.

“I’m mindful that it was fairly close race and that there’s sharp divisions in the way people in this district think,” Golden said. “In some ways, I have a greater challenge representing my constituents than most senators because we’re more divided than most districts and that was reaffirmed last night.”

When asked how he would reach out to voters who cast ballots for Sparacino, Golden said, “That’s the perennial question in politics, right?”

“You keep communicating,” he said. “Kind of my process in gathering information and input in making a decision and invite people to get back to me, give me their input and what they think.”

Golden said he tries to “discriminate” in the process of choosing which issues are foundational for him and which issues are more negotiable.

“We’ve gotten in a time where it seems like with a lot of elected officials, it’s World War III out of just about every issue, like they’re all equally crucial,” Golden said. “You’ve got to monitor that and say, ‘is there some good for me on this?’ That’s a constant conversation.”

Golden expressed gratitude to his supporters. 

“It’s transition time from running to serving and I’m looking forward to what we can do in the next four years,” he said.

Reach reporter Holly Dillemuth at

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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