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County candidates getting in the game

It's beginning to look like a who's who of local politics heading toward November

Back-to-school season is back-to-campaigning season in the year before a major election, and there's no exception to this rule for the three seats on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners that will be on the ballot next November.

Commissioner Ann Lininger announced in June she wouldn't run again, left an open field for former State Sen. Martha Schrader, a Democrat from Canby, in Position 3. John Swanson, chief of staff for Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, is considering challenging Schrader for the nonpartisan seat.

In Position 4, former Oregon City Commissioner Dan Holladay and former State Rep. Tootie Smith, R-Molalla, will challenge Commissioner Jamie Damon, whom the commission appointed in May.

Chairwoman Charlotte Lehan had held Position 4 until March, when she was appointed to replace former Chairwoman Lynn Peterson, who left for a job in the governor's office.

Damon has received the endorsement of Lehan, who also hopes to retain her seat.

Even State Rep. Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, might join the crazy campaign season in Clackamas County. Hunt reported in July that he was mulling over the idea of challenging Lehan, but since that time he apparently has made that decision definite and is waiting until Sept. 19 to formally make the announcement.

Lehan and several other political insiders who have spoken with the Pamplin Media Group have heard that the former speaker of the Oregon House has privately announced his candidacy for county commissioner.

'He told me he was running last month and suggested that I run against Jamie Damon, which is a tactic I find offensive,' Lehan said. 'The political gamesmanship and hyper-partisan maneuvering practiced in Salem politics may be effective for legislators, but I have never found it to be well-tolerated at the local level where our job is working directly with a wide range of constituents and diverse communities.'

Damon, who lives in Eagle Creek, is the only member of the board who lives in East Clackamas County, outside of the densely populated west county. Damon was appointed to fill an unexpired vacant position, joining the board in June 2011.

Hunt is traveling in China to promote trade with Oregon until next week, when he has said he will make an announcement. Hunt responded to an emailed request for comment, saying he still hasn't made a final decision, although he said he's ruled out running for Oregon labor commissioner and is deciding between the county chair position and running for re-election in House District 40.

'In the past month, I've talked with many local leaders and constituents and have received very positive feedback and strong encouragement to run for county chair. I now need to conclude the discussions with my wife and family before making a final decision,' Hunt said.

The county chair race is not the only venue for political wrangling in the first week of registration. Swanson, a Clackamas resident who lost in the 2010 primary to State Rep. Patrick Sheehan (R-Happy Valley), worried about partisanship in Salem extending to the county races.

'I've worked with so many different folks down in Salem that I don't really see party lines anymore,' Swanson said.

Schrader and her campaign manager, Stacey Dycus, declined to comment on Swanson's potential to run.

If he does run, Swanson said he would hope that issues such as transportation funding and sustainably managing natural resources would see bipartisan support. Swanson defended his ability as a longtime conservative activist to win the county commission race despite relatively little name recognition, naming a recent example.

'Paul Savas announced in March, and he was able to win,' he said.

Schrader said that her platform (which is similar to Swanson's) already has bipartisan support.

'Jobs are on everyone's mind, and I want to make it easier for our small businesses that want to create jobs by reducing unnecessary regulation and ensuring good customer service from our government,' she said.