• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

Conservative control of Clackamas County Commission is poised with big money races for 2 seats

ByChad J. Johnson

May 14, 2022

Voters in Clackamas County have the option of protecting a conservative majority on the county commission or giving the Democrats the upper hand in Tuesday’s primary election.

Nine candidates are running for two county commission seats in a crowded and expensive election dominated by Democratic fundraising. The commission oversees the county’s $146 million general fund and sets policies for housing, land use, transportation and more for Oregon’s third most populous county.

Incumbent Paul Savas, a Republican, defends his seat in position 2 against four opponents. Sonya Fischer, a Democrat in No. 5, is running against three challengers.

The county council is technically non-partisan. But Savas, Commissioner Mark Shull and Speaker Tootie Smith hold a Conservative majority over Liberal Commissioners Fischer and Martha Schrader.

Clackamas, while leaning Democratic, is one of the most politically balanced counties in Oregon. Among registered voters, about 103,000 are Democrats, about 83,000 are Republicans and nearly 99,000 are unregistered with any party.

In the primary election, a candidate must receive at least 50% of the votes cast to win. Otherwise, the top two voters will face off in a runoff in November.

Candidates from both races touted the election as a pivotal moment for Clackamas County, which spans both suburban and rural communities.

Home prices in Clackamas County have risen faster than in Multnomah County over the past year, according to real estate firm Redfin, and county officials say a growing sector of the population is chronically homeless. shelter. The county is also grappling with a population boom, a controversial Oregon Department of Transportation proposal to toll Interstate 205, and a widely held belief that disorder is spreading through the county from Portland.

Despite the council’s conservative tilt, commissioners last year approved a comprehensive plan to develop 1,500 affordable homes by 2025 and chart a course to become carbon neutral by 2050. The council also planned to increase affordable prices. housing and homelessness services funded by tens of millions of dollars from a region-wide tax increase approved by voters in May 2020.

Tuesday’s election results will likely be delayed in Clackamas County because authorities mailed ballots with faulty barcodes to most voters, requiring voters’ ballot marks to be duplicated by hand, as reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive.


Savas has held his seat on the departmental commission since 2011.

His supporters portrayed him as a seasoned centrist leading the county through the challenges of growth, homelessness and the COVID-19 pandemic. As a member of regional transportation committees, Savas helps lead county efforts to oppose the state transportation agency’s proposal to charge I-205 drivers to create financial disincentives to use the crowded freeway during peak traffic hours. He says on his campaign website that the toll would be a “disaster” for the local economy.

Savas believes the county has a “responsibility to house people,” he said at the county’s state forum last month. He said he spearheaded Veterans Village, a transitional housing project for veterans, in part to prove the county can successfully invest in housing and services for the homeless.

Savas is backed by two groups lobbying for Clackamas County Sheriff’s Officers, one of which cut off a $10,000 contribution from him, his largest single donation this cycle. In total, he raised $95,000 this election cycle. It is also endorsed by seven county mayors, according to its website.

His most serious challenger is North Clackamas School Board member Libra Forde, a well-connected progressive who says voters deserve new leadership.

Forde raised about $139,000 and far exceeded the rest of the field, according to state campaign finance documents. Forde was funded in part by a $30,000 check from the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors and a $3,000 contribution from the Clackamas County Democratic Party.

Forde is backed by more than two dozen Democratic politicians, including Metro Council Chair Lynn Peterson and Oregon Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego, as well as a long list of regional progressive groups.

In a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive, Forde described his policy as forward-thinking and driven by inclusivity. Asked if she supported ODOT’s tolling proposal, she said transport systems should adapt to meet growing numbers of users without burdening “vulnerable populations and working families. “.

Forde, who is black, would be Clackamas County’s first black commissioner if elected, according to her campaign.

Local business owner Mark Robert Johnson is mostly self-reliantfinanced his campaign with $37,300 in loans, according to state records. He presents the election as an opportunity to shield Clackamas County from liberal politicsIes he blames for crime, homelessness and the rising cost of living in Portland. On his website, Johnson also pledges to audit the county’s finance department if elected. He opposes all toll roads.

Johnson aggressively attacked Savas on this run. His campaign committee is behind a negative website, shadysavas.com, which portrays Savas as dishonest. Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.

Candidates Steve Frost, a truck driver, and Bill Osburn, an electrician, did not say they raised campaign funds and are not seeking endorsements.


Fischer beat his three challengers in fundraising while defending his record as a one-term commissioner.

Originally named to the commission in 2017, Fischer was elected the following year and has established herself as a key county voice on housing issues. She told the county state forum As of last month, Clackamas County had 1,700 affordable housing projects underway taking advantage of a regional housing bond. But she also highlighted the county’s independence from the regional Metro government, which won voter approval for bond financing and Multnomah County voter responses, as well as the smaller number of voters in Washington and Clackamas counties.

“One thing to keep in mind is this: Clackamas is not Portland,” she said.

His supporters include Dan Fowler, a former Oregon City mayor who co-chairs the Homeless Solution Coalition of Clackamas County.

“Sonya has always stood up for us, ensuring that our community receives the resources we need to deal with this crisis and house people,” he said in a statement.

Fischer has raised a whopping $232,000 this cycle with strong support from unions and individuals. His campaign spent more than $211,000. That’s about $145,000 more than his three opponents spent together.

Wilsonville City Councilman Ben West, a nurse in the heart clinic at Oregon Health and Science University, is Fischer’s top-funded challenger.

On his website, West says his main issues are opposition to the I-205 toll plan, promotion housing affordability and addressing transportation issues. He is wary of Metro and says he will work to hold the multi-county body accountable for opaque policies that do not match those of Clackamas County – and will try to remove Metro County if it is not. unsatisfied. West did not respond to requests for comment.

West is also a personality on Twitterwhere he rose up against “cultural Marxism”,, masking politics during the pandemic and “waking up” politics. He raised and spent approximately $56,000 during this campaign cycle.

Two other candidates are also vying for the seat: real estate agent Dana Hindman-Allen and Amazon employee Evan Geier.

Hindman-Allen says she will restore a long-absent civil spirit to the county commission and defend its independence from lawmakers in Salem and Portland. She opposes the I-205 toll proposal and worries that local government has eroded residents’ freedoms during the pandemic. His campaign raised $9,000.

Geier’s statement to voters did not include any policy proposals and he did not file any campaign finance information, according to state records.

–Grant Stringer; [email protected]; @stringerjourno