Author Archives: Diane Jukofsky

Lake Oswego’s Sen. Wagner Chosen as Majority Leader

Congratulations to Clackamas County State Senator Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego upon being elected Senate Majority Leader in the Oregon legislature.

Rob Wagner

Wagner succeeds State Sen. Ginny Burdick (whose 18th district has one precinct located in Clackamas County). She announced prior to the primary that she would step down after the election.

Senator Wagner’s new role finds him responsible for maintaining or increasing the number of Democrats in the Senate and, when the body in session, coordinating tactics with the Senate President (Peter Courtney) and Democratic committee chairs.

The added duties bring a modest increase in his annual legislative salary (currently $31,300 annually) and will require him to spend more time in Salem. Also an elected Lake Oswego School Board member, Wagner may consider stepping down from that post.

Two former Senate Majority Leaders have gone on to state-wide office. Bill Bradbury also served a session as Senate President and was appointed Secretary of State by Governor John Kitzhaber in 1999 and then won two terms by election.  Current Governor Kate Brown was Secretary of State and rose to Governor upon Kitzhaber’s resignation five years ago.

Looking at the 2020 Primary – Good, Bad and You Know…

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.

Might We Become the Party Will Rogers Wouldn’t Recognize Anymore?

By Mary Lyon

 Actor/writer/humorist Will Rogers may have said it best (at least until recently): “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Indeed, the Democratic Party has long had a reputation for being disorganized. For Clackamas County Democrats Chairman Peter Nordbye, that’s a powerful, overarching and immediate concern: “We have to pull ourselves together as a party because we’ve gotta get Trump out.” Nordbye says this is more urgently true now than ever before, as a voracious pandemic magnifies the current administration’s calamitous excuse for leadership.

Nordbye points to earlier crises the U.S. has surmounted, recovering from a devastating Great Depression, bridging division by rebuilding one-time adversaries Japan, and Europe after World War II. He says we now face another task so vast it calls to us all. “Bring everybody to the table and get that done. We can move toward a can-do society. My job is to figure out some way to come together. We do not want Trump.”

Ironically, the year 2020 seems to be turning Will Rogers’ quote on its ear, as well as easing Nordbye’s deepest worries. At least for now. In the space of a week, only one Democratic presidential candidate remained standing, as Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign, endorsing Joe Biden mere days later. Former President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren quickly followed suit. 

Progressive firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signaled she’d ultimately be in the presumptive Democratic nominee’s column as well. The media have noted the remarkable and unexpected shift. “What long and drawn-out primary season? Uh, wait, it’s over already?”

And not a moment too soon. Because there’s enough else to do at the moment. Nordbye says the coronavirus has pushed us into “uncharted territory for our families and our party,” a serious concern on both macro- and micro- levels. The effort ahead includes a broad based alignment on larger party goals of taking back the White House and Senate.

It’s also found deep within the minutiae of mechanics involved in problem-solving how we can still meet without physically meeting. Nordbye says the main issue is knowing “all we need to do to make this work for everybody.” Life has grown more complicated at the same time it’s been forcibly simplified by the need to follow statewide “Stay Home. Save Lives” guidelines.

The Clackamas Dems have now entered the brave new world of virtual meetings as a way to do business while maintaining social distancing. The first Zoom conference in April brought Metro President Lynn Peterson and Metro Councilor Christine Lewis live to your screen to discuss Ballot Measure 26-210, funding supportive housing services to reduce homelessness.

 Online conferencing is one thing, but Nordbye says there are no bylaws in place for learning skills at managing 100-people meetings. “The skills are different. There’s a lot to figure out.”

The challenge is even larger, broader and more urgent. Nordbye’s list includes staying informed as the coronavirus changes more aspects of life as we know it, especially since your life actually may depend on it. Fortunately, he says, new facts on the new realities are readily available from credible sources beyond “Dr. Trump’s reality show” which means “we don’t have to listen to him.”

There are also elections demanding our attention – county commissioners and other Democrats near and far, to keep in place or vote into power to solidify more reasonable and rational leadership locally and nationally. Nordbye further stresses the importance of inclusion. “We cannot win in November if we fail to include people from multiple different viewpoints.” And in the end, he says, all roads toward a Better-Everything for this country still lead to ousting Trump.

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Tootie’s outright Trumpish lies and deceit are beyond shameful

By Peter Toll

Consider your national political party leader got elected and sustains his power through all-out lying, intimidating and being an ignorant bully. If you’re running for office as a loyal supporter of Donald Trump, why not follow his example? Hey, it’s a squalid but proven model.  

That requires lying, cheating, making stuff up, attacking peoples’ basic sense of decency and blaming others for your own failings, all the while playing to a gullible electorate who thinks you’re draining the swamp, when in fact, you’re doing exactly the opposite.

Enter Tootie Smith. Yes, the same person who lost her election four years ago to a newcomer to county politics. She tried to get re-elected Clackamas County Commissioner in 2016, and this brand-new player, who had never been on an Oregon ballot, thumped her and sent her packing.  

What has Tootie been doing since then? She spent more than $3,000 from her political action committee for personal use. That’s flat out illegal.  Creating a slush fund to enhance your personal situation is bad enough, but she was already out of office when she did it!

Fully documented charges have been included in a complaint filed with the Secretary of State by a Happy Valley election integrity expert. The complaint factually accuses Tootie of breaking the law at least five times as she tried to remake herself into a motivational speaker.  

That’s when she wasn’t cooking up the phony “Timber Unity” group staging clumsy log truck demonstrations in Salem. It’s difficult to determine which behavior was worse: abusing log truck drivers or condemning future generations to poverty by doubling or tripling the cost of climate change mitigation by preventing action today. Tootie’s stock in trade has always been based on misleading charges and emotions. It’s about her, not them.

Now she’s running against Jim Bernard, the County Chair. She wants his job and has launched a savage, lie-ridden mail and television campaign. If Bernard weren’t a public figure, he could haul her to court for all the slanderous and untrue allegations.

Here’s a typical example. In a recent mailer she charged that Bernard’s wife, Danielle Cowan, got her job as a department head with the county because Bernard pulled strings. Impossible, says Cowan, citing truthful facts: Cowan was hired in January, 2008, when Bernard was Mayor of Milwaukie. Pulling county strings as a mayor? No way. In fact, he didn’t get elected to the commission until November, fully 10 months after Tootie says he swung a job her way. 

Tootie’s bald-faced lies don’t stop there. She accuses Bernard of making the county pay the bulk of his legal bills to defend himself in an action where no charges were levied. Totally false. In fact, Bernard paid the entire $25,000 legal fee with his own money. No fines, no charges, although he did receive a “letter of education” regarding paperwork requirements.

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Tootie’s Personal Slush Fund Draws Official Complaint

When the guy at the top sets an example of, “Hey, I got elected to make some money,” and that same person, Donald Trump, is compelled to return $1.5 million to charity after illegally steering it into his own pocket, we shouldn’t be surprised at his influence on other Republican officeholders.  

Specifically, former Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith has broken Oregon law when it comes to using Political Action Committee (PAC) funds for personal use. She’s been using that money as a personal slush fund since leaving office in January, 2017, when she was beaten by Ken Humberston.

Such naughty shenanigans have been spotted by an alert Happy Valley person, Sherry Healy, who in February filed a formal complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division. With documentation there are 48 pages of material.

Tootie Smith and John Ludlow celebrate their election victories in 2012.   Both lost re-election in 2016 and Smith is seeking office again, despite official complaints of running a “slush fund” with PAC money.

It went like this: Once a person is out of office it may be time to change their public persona. Tootie figured she would be a good motivational speaker. She wanted to get paid for talking to people.

In order to succeed she needed training and that costs money. So she turned to her PAC account. Oops. That’s against the law. PAC money is only for political use. The complaint cites several examples of how Tootie broke the law using PAC money:  

  • Paying a membership fee of $1,697 in January, 2017, to the National Speakers Association with campaign funds after leaving office.  
  • Paying $1,125 with PAC money for speaking, consulting and training after leaving office, with the stated goal of starting a new career, one apparently funded by campaign money. 
  • Paying $120 for website expenses with campaign funds after leaving office to advertise her professional speaking and consulting services.  
  • Using campaign funds to build a website linking to sales of her book. 
  • Using the PAC in 2019 for a $170 membership in the West Linn Chamber of Commerce to promote herself as an author, not as a candidate.

A key aspect of the law, ORS 260.407, specifically prohibits using PAC funds for any personal use other than to defray any expenses incurred in connection with the person’s duties as a holder of public office. Smith was neither in office nor a candidate when the most egregious activities occurred.

Today Smith wants to get back in office. She is challenging County Chair Jim Bernard in the May election. So last year she reinvigorated her PAC, which implies her candidacy will benefit from any proceeds.

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