March 6 is the candidate filing deadline for the May 15 primary election, so let’s review what’s at stake and who should be politically burned at the stake.
The main issue with primaries is turnout. Over the last four Oregon general elections turnout has averaged 76 percent. During that same period our primaries averaged a little over 42 percent. And as recently as 2014 it was less than 36 percent.
Turnout is heavily influenced by the races that occur in any primary. On the federal level, Lane County folks will see at least four Republican candidates seeking to run against Peter DeFazio in the 4th Congressional District.
The Republican gubernatorial primary has nine candidates with no clear favorite at this time. Knute Buehler has picked up an opponent in right wingnut Trumpophile Greg Wooldridge, a 70-year-old former Navy pilot and darling of the Oregon Right to Life crowd. Buehler is in trouble; he’ll probably spend a million dollars encouraging Republican turnout in May. And Wooldridge will do his best to get out Trump’s loyal base.
Locally we have one contested Democratic race in the Oregon House, with Phil Barnhart’s retirement in District 11. None of our local Senate seats feature contested primaries.
Bottom line: Republican candidates will have a lot of incentive to encourage partisan turnout in these contested federal and statewide elections. Democrats won’t. This in turn could impact the non-partisan county commission races. Just because these races are “non-partisan” doesn’t mean the outcomes aren’t impacted by the party affiliation of those who turn out to vote.
If Art Robinson succeeds in getting his Republican fringe in the 4th District out to vote, and if Wooldridge brings out the Trump fringe in the governor’s race, and if progressive turnout is weak, non-partisan positions could be heavily impacted.
There are three Lane County Commission seats up for grabs.
Two progressive candidates will challenge incumbent Jay Bozievich in the West Commissioner race. Nora Kent appears to be an anti-aerial-herbicide spray single-issue environmental activist. David Goldberg was particularly incensed at Libertarian Bozievich’s vote for a 12 percent pay raise for the commissioners while proposing county nurses only receive 2 percent during the recent strike.
The problem in a three-way race is that the progressives split their vote and the incumbent conservative Libertarian, 12 percent wealthier, walks away with the seat.
The Springfield Commissioner race could be interesting. Incumbent Sid Leiken is being challenged by Joe Berney, a recently retired business owner and educator. Berney has garnered some strong labor endorsements. Sid has baggage. Both Bozievich and Leiken own the recent Lane County workers strike; threatening health care benefits while giving themselves and the county administrator a lavish raise left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
The East Lane County Commissioner position is the most interesting. Incumbent Faye Stewart left for a fat job. The remaining commissioners appointed Gary Williams, an empty suit, to fill his position. Commissioner Pat Farr orchestrated the selection of the three finalists — two Democrats and a Republican. Guess who won?
The county commission is a non-partisan race. So forget Democrat and Republican labels: think progressive versus conservative. Remember when we had three progressives and two conservatives during the halcyon “bookclub” days — the Handy, Fleenor, Sorenson triumvirate? Now Pete’s the loneliest progressive on the planet. There are five progressives in the East Commission race versus one conservative, Williams the appointed incumbent. Who knew that Heather Buch would have to run against the four smartest white men in east Lane County? If you don’t believe me, just ask them. Tim Laue, Kevin Matthews, James Barber and Frank King. Only one of them admits to being a professional comedian. I’ll leave it to you to figure out who it is. The other three are karaoke hacks.
Progressives in the East Commission district need to coalesce around one candidate, or we’re sunk. Buch’s a business owner. She has managed the renovation and transformation of the Oakridge trailer park and the Saginaw trailer park working with St. Vincent DePaul, local governments and law enforcement to reduce crime in the rural areas of Lane County by focusing on safe adequate housing. She is the only candidate with experience working on rural jobs, housing, poverty and rural crime.
Recent polling in the post-Trump victory era indicates that women of all affiliations will determine the outcome of our primary. I’m encouraged. I say, in the year of the woman, Heather Buch is a no-brainer. We need more estrogen turnout.
Commissioner Jay Bozievich responded via email, saying:
“I am the ONLY commissioner to vote AGAINST our pay raise ALL three times it came before us for a vote. I also voted against one of the pay raises for the county administrator.
In fact, I pushed for and made the motions that eliminate the 2% deferred compensation for commissioners in 2011. I cut the half-time assistants to the commissioners that “the book club” approved. I also cut our office budgets from more than $14,000/Commisioner/year to just $4,000/commissioner/year.
When I got out voted on our raise I immediately doubled my annual giving to Untied Way of Lane County. (Mo Young can verify as she was our coordinator that year and I had to ask for my card back to do it)
I understand folks may have issues with me but they should at least be for real reasons not misinformation.”