By Peter Toll
Leadership is on the line for Clackamas County as incumbent County Chair John Ludlow is under serious attack on three fronts, while two other county commissioners face their own election challenges.
Lackluster Ludlow, known more for bullying than any serious accomplishments in his more than three years in office, faces challenges by two mid-term colleagues on the commission. Jim Bernard and Paul Savas retain their seats if they lose this or the November election.
Also introducing himself into the anti-Ludlow candidates is the only non-commissioner, Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay. He thinks all three of his opponents act like children and he’d be the adult who could step in and bring order out of the Ludlow-led chaos.
While this is officially a non-partisan race, Ludlow is a staunch Republican who was put into office in 2012 by the tea partiers under an anti-Metro, anti-Portland, anti-mass transit, and anti-tax banner. Ludlow has reflected their interest. He has alienated Metro to the point where Clackamas County is off the radar for Metro grants, usually helpful assistance on regional issues and cooperation. The county is at a low point in regional respect.
Bernard, a Democrat, is quick to point out Ludlow’s obvious shortcomings, especially his support for turning the Langdon Farms golf course near Wilsonville into a major industrial complex. Golf course owners have also contributed thousands of dollars to Ludlow’s campaign.
Bernard is usually the “I don’t think so, John” commenter at commission meetings. He has made clear he wants to restore the county’s effectiveness in the region and its sense of purpose.
Republican Savas, the swing vote known for “I’m not ready to vote; I need more information,” would bring a vacuous lack of direction to the commission. Latecomer Holladay is pretty much the longshot in this primary.
As in all contested races at the county level, only the top two candidates will survive into November. (A winner must achieve 50 percent plus one.) If Bernard can muster the Democrats and Ludlow and Savas divide the Republicans, we would see Bernard and probably Ludlow in the general election.
Meanwhile, incumbent Martha Schrader, a Democrat and former state senator, has two challengers. Foremost is Republican Steve Bates of Boring. He lost to Bernard by less than 300 votes in 2012 and is trying again for the board.
Schrader tends to be low key but effective. She is not a hardline party player, while Bates would join the Ludlow team, supposedly fighting for Clackamas County while actually playing Ludlow’s games of acting busy but doing nothing.
Another Democrat, Jenifer Valley of Happy Valley, is focusing on seeking a fair program for the recently-passed marijuana initiative. She feels Ludlow and especially Tootie Smith (“over my dead body”) are trying to create the most draconian implementation program in the state.
Smith, clearly the most extreme right-winger on the board, has two challengers as well. They are Democrat Ken Humberston, a commissioner on the once beleaguered Clackamas River Water District board, and independent Bill King, mayor of Sandy.
Smith and Ludlow are a nasty team. Humberston has the best shot at breaking it up. His public service record is long and proud, his views are a welcome contrast to Smith’s, and he enjoys solid support from organized labor and community leaders.
Too, Humberston is the only candidate who has openly stated his support for a proposed ballot measure which would impose a tax on Oregon companies with sales exceeding $25 million annually. “The benefits would be enormous and are badly needed,” he says.
Together, Ludlow and Smith have cost the county in excess of $1 million in lawsuits and problems they’ve created. Their single-handed and unexplained replacement of the county’s executive and then a homophobic-oriented attack on another county employee cannot be tolerated any longer.
Both must be replaced, hopefully in this primary election but in all probability, in November. They are a disgrace to the county and have made us the laughingstock of the state and the region. We’ve had enough.