From the Left Bank
Bernard Will Face Savas, Ludlow for County Chair

By Peter Toll

jim bernard

It’s now a three-way race as County Commissioner Jim Bernard has announced he will run against fellow Commissioner Paul Savas for the County Chair’s seat held by controversial Republican John Ludlow. Ludlow has not indicated he will seek re-election next year.

Both Bernard, a Democrat and former mayor of Milwaukie, and Savas, a Republican, will retain their seats on the county board if they lose in the May or November elections.

The first battle will be in seeing which two can survive the three-way primary next May.

In either case (except for Ludlow), the loser will retain their board seat as they are in the middle of a four-year term. If one wins at least 50 percent plus one, an unlikely prospect, the winner will survive and not face a general election.

Too, unlike Multnomah County’s ban on running for remunerative office while holding one, Clackamas commissioners are not constrained in this regard.

Also up for re-election are Commissioners Martha Schrader, Democrat, and Tootie Smith, Republican. Neither has indicated their electoral plans at this writing.

But Ken Humberston, a member of the Clackamas River Water Board (which is now running smoothly, thanks to Ken, after a major board member ballyhoo and recall), is running against Tootie. Ken lives just outside Oregon City.

Also of note on the electoral side locally, congratulations to our two new Democratic mayors in the county: Russ Axelrod, of West Linn, and Mark Gamba, of Milwaukie.

Axelrod won a seriously fought race for an open seat and won soundly, despite a major Republican-led and paid for onslaught involving nasty direct mail and indiscriminate lack of GOP civility, if there is such a thing. A special election is set to fill his city council seat, a process usually left to the four remaining members of the council.

Gamba, a former Milwaukie city councilor, drew no opposition when he filed. Mayoral seats, like city council seats, are officially non-partisan.

Lake Oswego has some action, too, as City Councilor Karen Bowerman, otherwise known as “the woman who never saw an election she could turn down,” announced she is surrendering her seat prematurely for health reasons.

When she first moved here from California a few years ago, Bowerman ran for Congress against Kurt Schrader, then for county commission against Paul Savas and then for city council as an arch-conservative. She indicated a move back to warmer climes is imminent.

Mayor Ken Studebaker, a Republican, is up for re-election and freshman Councilor Joe Buck, a Democrat elected recently in a contested race, is looking closely at the opportunity. The finer sensibilities of Lake Oswego’s gentry remain ruffled after the mayor-led council supported a highly controversial and major development downtown. Losers are now appealing in court after LUBA approved the plan.

On the state-wide scene, House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, has stepped down and is mulling a race for Secretary of State. Also looking at it is State Senator Richard Devlin, D-Lake Oswego, co-chair of the legislature’s powerful Joint Ways and Means (read spending) Committee.

State Rep. Tobias Read (pronounced “reed”), D-Beaverton, is running for State Treasurer as incumbent Ted Wheeler is term limited out. Wheeler, a former Multnomah County Commission chair, may run for an open board seat there or to replace Portland mayor Charlie Hales.

Some see Hales as having a rough time in the job. A street improvement tax came up wanting as he had trouble articulating a simple fact: Roads need to be improved, and we need to pay for that. The longer we wait, the more it costs us. And that’s just one area of contention. Hales could be vulnerable against the right candidate.

Ditto Ludlow, which is where we started. Certainly Bernard will bring some serious, productive local government service to the race. Savas remains a work-in-progress, shilly-shallying on every tough decision. Ludlow’s weakest point, his blustering bellicose attitude, has yet to lead to any improvement in local government.

Lots of election work takes place in off-election years. This year is no exception.


Peter Toll, a 26-year Clackamas County resident and active Democrat, is an editor of this website and a financial advisor in Lake Oswego.