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'Dry Side' view: eastern Washington and Oregon residents anxiously await election results

Anna King / NW News Network
Tattered American flags wave in the strong wind of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area on October 27, 2020.

In the weeks leading up to the election, residents in five smaller areas around eastern Washington and Oregon spoke about how they were feeling.

Now, as people are awaiting results, I checked in with a few.

Anxious raking

Since Tuesday, Cynthia Hurlbutt has raked about an acre of walnut leaves on her property near Walla Walla, Washington.

She’s been upset that there isn’t more clarity in the election results. When she’s not raking, Hurlbutt says she’s sleeping.

“I guess I’ve gone to bed early just to escape,” she says. It’s an escape.”

She says one of her neighbors has decided to lock their gate and stay put for several days out of fear. Another friend told Hurlbutt that she was feeling anxious, but also upset about the two presidential choices.

Credit Courtesy of Cynthia Hurlbutt
Cynthia Hurlbutt, outside of Walla Walla, raked about an acre of leaves since the election out of anxiety. She says she's also been sleeping a lot.

“Two old white men, when are we gonna have a different face to this election, whether it's male or female? Someone much younger, more energetic, intelligent. And I agreed with her,” Hurlbutt said.

In The Dalles, Oregon, Rick Esaacson says he’s worried about life under Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, should they win. He thinks prices on commodities would go up, and squeeze his frugal senior citizen lifestyle.

“There’s no help for seniors, there’s no help for people who have a little bit of money,” Esaacson says.

He does think Republicans will behave if they lose the presidential race.

“We’re not going to go out and do anything stupid,” he says. “Of course Republicans won’t riot. But if Trump wins, God help Portland, yah.”

East on the plateau, in Mission, Oregon, Steve Filkins says he feels like there is a lot of tension on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. There are a lot of upset people.

“But I just don’t happen to be one of them,” he says.

Filkins thinks the country will survive a good president or a bad one, a good congress or a bad one. His top issues come down to two of the most divisive social issues of the recent past: guns and abortion.

“I want reasonable gun control. But I am a life member of the National Rifle Association. I believe very strongly in the second amendment.”

Filkins also says he’s against abortion.

With the presidential outcome still uncertain, and possible court challenges, some residents in the region were turning toward celebrating local and state races.

Credit Anna King / NW News Network
Anna King / NW News Network
Chris Boyd of Palouse, Washington, near Colfax, raises the quail species Coturnix, which are popular to feed to birds of prey. He's not a Trump supporter. He calls the president the "crookedest bastard I've ever seen since Nixon."

In Colfax, the heart of Washington’s Palouse wheat-growing region, Chris Boyd says he’s both worried and rooting for Biden. But he’s glad for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s clear reelection win.

“I was really happy to hear Inslee was reelected. I don’t think he is a fantastic governor, but he is certainly the right man of our choices,” Boyd said.

He was also happy about voters approving Referendum 90 about K-12 sex education in schools, calling the law “important.”

“Knowledge will never hurt you,” Boyd says.

Staying calm … and hopeful

Back in Walla Walla, Hurlbutt has raked about all the leaves on her property. And is now waiting.

“I believe we have a very fast food society, that’s my terminology. We expect things to happen instantaneously,” she says.

She says millions of people came out to vote, and those types of counts can’t happen in just 24 hours.

But Hurlbut says that like most of the country, she’s just trying to keep calm, and be patient. 

Steve Filkins, in Mission, looks beyond the current environment to take the long view.

“Four years from now when whichever president becomes president, we may have shifted left or shifted right, shifted up or shifted down,” he says. “But I think we’ll still be America – I hope.”

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.