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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 4.29.2010

 

Will the Rich Guy Win?

The race isn't over 'til the East Lane commissioner sings

by Camilla Mortensen

With the most money in his war chest, the most name recognition and the incumbent advantage, one might expect current commissioner Faye Stewart to walk away the winner in this May’s primary for the east Lane commission position. But there’s still hope for a different outcome. 

Gary Kutcher

It’s a five-man race (yes, all men), and in order to win now, a candidate would have to get over 50 percent of the vote in the primary.

Running against Stewart for votes of this largely rural section of Lane County are Douglas Bakke, Tom Brandt, Dennis Gabrielson and Gary Kutcher. EW asked the candidates to answer the question, “Why should Eugene Weekly endorse your candidacy for east Lane County Commissioner?” 

Stewart, a Republican (though this is a nonpartisan race), has been one of the conservative votes on the commission. He’s advocated for more development and more logging, and he voted for a controversial county income tax that had previously been rejected by Lane County voters. The last move spurred a recall effort against Stewart, former Commissioner Bobby Green and outgoing Commissioner Bill Dwyer.

Stewart has raised more money for his campaign than anyone else in his race. Actually, he is the only one who has raised any significant money, almost $14,000 in contributions, mostly from timber industry interests. 

Kutcher, Brandt and Gabrielson have reported no funds raised to the ORESTAR elections reporting database. Bakke reports $100.

Stewart is no stranger to big money. He’s the director of his family’s Faye and Lucille Stewart Foundation, which has $8 million in assets, according to the most recent number from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. His great uncle, L.L. “Stub” Stewart, was known as the last of Oregon’s great timber barons and ran the Bohemia Lumber Company, which primarily logged old growth on public lands until it sold its assets to Willamette Industries for $122 million in 1990.

But will big money win the race? 

Despite the lack of funding, the idealistic Kutcher of the Sustainable Forestry Network is the only candidate aside from Stewart who has a web page. He has run previously for the east Lane position. Kutcher says, “I represent political viewpoints to support environmental protection, human rights, peace and social justice.”

Unlike Stewart’s webpage, Kutcher’s is free from typos and writing faux pas, such as signing his letter to potential voters “respectively” (EW supposes Stewart means “respectfully”). Stewart’s page also announces that you have reached “www.fayehstewart.com” when in fact it is housed at fayestewart.org. (If you accidentally type in fayestewart.com you’ll come to another Faye Stewart’s website which offers past life regressions, channeling, intuitive/shamanic healing and a chance to tap into “All That Is, Source or Universal Consciousness.”)

Gabrielson of Creswell has neither an email contact nor website for his campaign. Bakke appears not to have spent any of his $100 on campaigning or a web presence. Of Stewart’s foes, Brandt of Marcola has the most public experience, and in discussions with EW, he appears to be the most up on county politics. 

Brandt says that from his work in the 1970s showing the county that recycling could lead to jobs, to his experience dealing with county issues like permits and land use, he can both save and generate money for Lane County. He says, “I don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. I find another solution.”

Faye Stewart did not respond before press time. 

EW will run the candidates’ full answers as they come in at blogs.eugeneweekly.com



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Will the Rich Guy Win? The race isn't over 'til the East Lane commissioner sings