Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson says, “I get up every morning and say ‘I’m glad I’m a Lane County Commissioner and I get to help people,’” and that’s one of the many reasons he is seeking re-election.
Sorenson says he has no interest in trading barbs with his opponents or getting “involved in what Clinton called the politics of personal destruction” in the race for the south Eugene commission seat he currently holds. He says he is running “because I have a lot of accomplishments but I still have a number of things I’d like to do.”
Sorenson faces opposition for the first time in more than a decade. Environmental advocate Andy Stahl and Sponsors, Inc., board member and retired painting contractor Kieran Walsh have entered the race, both citing the timber-funded open meetings lawsuit against Sorenson and other commissioners as motivation.
Sorenson says the positions he has taken on issues from logging to sprawl to the Strong Schools initiative over the years have reflected the views of the people in his district but have “infuriated really powerful interests.”
“I have a role to be an advocate for strong, progressive politics,” he says. Sorenson cites among his list of accomplishments major expansions of both Lane County Veterans Services and public health services. “Before I became commissioner, Lane County had no role in primary health care,” he says.
He says he has also been involved in other issues that matter to his district, such as saving the Lane County ice-skating arena, which was drastically affected by the downturn in the economy. He cites improvements to Lane County Animal Services and his work to make aggravated animal abuse in Oregon a felony when he was in the Oregon Legislature, because studies show animal abuse is often linked to child abuse and other violence against humans.
Sorenson says he is proud of the work he has done to promote sustainable small businesses in Lane County. Before the current board majority reversed it, the county was giving money to local, environmentally friendly businesses including electric carmaker Arcimoto. He says the more conservative board now has gone back to the “big fish idea.” Rather than giving money to support growing smaller businesses, the county saves the money to lure in big fish, such as Hynix, the semiconductor manufacturer that has since left town. “When I was the board chair we got more people employed more quickly,” he says.
Sorenson says even the votes he has lost to the conservative majority are important, such as to keep the Lane County Human Rights Commission, because they represent the dominant point of view of his district and causes that south Eugene cares about.