Democrats Win 3-of-4 Contested Clackamas Races

Democrat Kick - 2012Clackamas Democrats were actively involved in four non-partisan special district elections this week, winning three of them. Turnout was predictably low — 21.5 percent county-wide, according to the county clerk’s office.

Here are the races where we paid special attention with volunteers and/or financial support:

  • In West Linn, City Councilor Russ Axelrod defeated Council President Thomas Frank by a 3,318 to 2,700 count in a special election to fill the remainder of a mayoral term left vacant by the resignation of John Kovash.

This was a particularly important race as Republicans saw Frank as a successor to State Rep. Julie Parrish if she runs for Secretary of State next year. Frank’s role is now greatly diminished despite 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson sending fund-raising letters out for Frank in West Linn.

Nastiness by Frank’s team, run by former Clackamas State Rep. Patrick Sheehan, made this probably the county’s ugliest race. For example, when a citizen filed an ethics complaint against Axelrod, Frank’s campaign quickly put out two hit pieces in the mail citing the complaint. Curious timing as the city dismissed the complaint soon after the attack mailings hit voters’ mail boxes.

Somewhat unspoken in this particular contest was Frank’s seeming complicit (while voting against as a planning commissioner) support for a controversial Lake Oswego-Tigard water project which has physically ripped right through one of West Linn’s residential neighborhoods.

Axelrod lawn signs were in practically every household yard in the affected area. Axelrod has made his displeasure and distaste for the project well known.

Turnout in the West Linn race nearly hit 30 percent.

  • Jim Martin, an active Clackamas Democrat, beat a relatively unknown challenger 1,996 to 1,413 for a seat on the Oak Lodge Water District board of directors. This district’s boundaries are somewhat contiguous to the Oak Lodge Sanitary District, and long-time board members have thwarted a merger for many years. The district serves from Oak Grove to Jennings Lodge.

Martin’s victory provides the tie-breaking vote for a merger of the two districts. Proponents have cited numerous economic advantages for ratepayers in the district if they join together.

  • Tricia Claxton was re-elected to the North Clackamas School District board, beating back a challenge by Tim McMenamin, 7,403 to 4,721. Claxton, a Molalla teacher, has a solid record on the board which serves the biggest student population in the county.

This was the third losing race in a row for McMenamin. He was beaten by State Rep. Carolyn Tomei in 2012 and then by her successor, Kathleen Taylor, in 2014. Three strikes and you’re out, Tim.

  • Norm Trost lost his re-election bid for the Oregon Trail School board to newcomer Candice Lindberg, 1,543 to 1,235. This race was a good example of Republican planning and stealth. Ms. Lindberg was endorsed by the county Republican Party.

She filed unexpectedly two days before the filing deadline; immediately a full-blown campaign website was revealed and a welter of lawn signs suddenly appeared in the Sandy area.

Three other races are also worth noting, beginning with Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba. A solid progressive and enthusiastic light rail advocate, Gamba, a city councilor, was not challenged in his race for the open seat.

Another active Clackamas Democrat, Naomi Angier, was unopposed for a vacancy on the Clackamas River Water District board. She was a leader in the successful recall election on that then-contentious board two years ago.

Democrat John Wallin was unopposed for an open seat on the Lake Oswego School District board. In a similar race, moderate Republican Bob Barman beat the more conservative Ed Hutson to keep his seat on the LO board.

Hutson was heavily supported by the right wing-leaning Lake Oswego Citizens’ Action League (LOCAL), which barely defeated Greg McPherson in the LO mayoral race in 2014.

We’re also pleased with Betty Reynolds’ re-election to the West Linn-Wilsonville School District board and Chelsea Martin’s election (unopposed) in the same district.

This is the second consecutive special district election where our supported candidates did well. In the last such election, we won all nine of our contested races.