By Peter Toll
Lots of ways to look at the Clackamas County primary election. In some ways, Clackamas went exactly like Oregon. In other ways it was upside-down. And in yet other ways it was frustrating for hard-working local Democrats.
County Chair Jim Bernard’s defeat by Tootie Smith, probably one of the worst people ever elected in Oregon, came as a surprise for two reasons:
(1) Bernard has done an excellent job in getting the county back on track. His 53.10 – 46.47 per cent loss was unexpected and jarring.
(2) Her last-minute pack-of-lies video blitz was tailor-made for higher-than-usual, home-bound viewers. She then reinforced the lying TV ads with equally untruthful campaign mailers. This was truly a new low in local campaigning. Tell ‘em one lie and then back it up with another.
She gave the impression Bernard’s $109,000 annual salary was ill-gotten. Guess who gets exactly the same salary starting in January—Tootie. She said the county paid personal legal fees he faced in a personnel matter. Wrong. He paid the entire $25,000 amount himself. She failed to mention the county paid her entire $48,775 settlement costs plus more than $5,000 in legal fees when she was on the board. On and on. (Read more about Tootie Smith’s deceptive campaign ads.)
Clackamas voters, especially Democrats, have a tendency to sometimes look at a strong win and then figure, well, hell, now we can move on to other opportunities. Dumping John Ludlow and Tootie in favor of Jim Bernard and his colleague, Ken Humberston, in 2016 is a good example. The latter is in a run-off against Mark Shull, of Sandy, a staunch Republican.
Humberston came close to reaching the winning 50 percent plus one majority to avoid the run-off. He got 48.72 per cent while Shull and Breeauna Sagdal got 27.11 and 23.81, respectively. Sagdal was recruited by Tootie to work on the unfortunate Timber Unity charade involving wood products workers protesting in Salem.
Our county’s two incumbent Democratic Congressmen beat back more progressive challengers with ease.
In the 5th CD, Kurt Schrader got 68.93 percent to Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba’s 22.87. Businessman Blair Reynolds pulled only 7.37. In the 3rd, Earl Blumenauer defeated Albert Lee, 80.71-16.55 percent. And down in the 4th, Peter DeFazio, of Springfield, saw his progressive challenger receive only 15.12% percent of the vote.
In the Democratic Secretary of State race, Happy Valley’s State Sen. Shemia Fagan won with a narrow 36.16 percent over State Sen. Mark Hass’s 35.57 percent. In each case, Clackamas voters gave higher margins to Fagan and Hass. Central Oregon’s Jamie McLeod-Skinner was third.
Clackamas County voters turned out at a 47.0 percent clip, slightly higher than the statewide turnout of 46.42 percent. Democrats had a higher turnout rate than Republicans.
Things were a little more predictable at the legislative level, as all incumbents were re-nominated. Democratic State Rep. Jeff Reardon (HD48), put a ribbon on it as 10 Republicans gave him write-in votes, thereby making him the vote-winner and the nominee in November for both parties.
Worth noting is the victory of Tessah Danel, of Oregon City, over Canby’s Julia Hill; both sought the Democratic nomination (HD39) against House Minority Leader State Rep. Christine Drazan. Danel and Hill fought hard, played fair and on election eve, each pledged to support the other if they lost.
The only other newcomer to the fray moving to November is Dacia Grayber (HD35), running for the seat vacated by Margaret Doherty. One precinct is in western Clackamas County.
Not facing Clackamas County voters in the fall will be a new sheriff and a new district attorney as neither incumbent chose to run. Angela Brandenburg got nearly 51 percent of the vote to beat three other contenders for the sheriff’s job and D.A. candidate John Wentworth was unopposed. Both Brandenburg and Wentworth are chief deputies in their respective departments.
Three other non-partisan actions are worth mentioning:
Wilsonville approved term limits on its city councilors and mayor, a move pushed successfully by the right. The impact will be that Mayor Tim Knapp and Councilor Charlotte Lehan, both prominent and especially effective Democrats, will be barred from seeking re-election.
Metro’s bond issue to benefit the homelessness issue won strongly as Multnomah County gave it 65.19 percent approval, and Washington County’s margin was 52.54 percent.The measure failed in Clackamas County, drawing just 46.24 percent favorable.Stafford resident Gerritt Rosenthal, former chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon’s Platform Committee, will be in a run-off with realtor Tom Anderson for the Metro seat serving southwest Clackamas County and much of eastern Washington County.