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Republican race for county judge heats up over dispute

Walt Wagner believes Mike McCabe should have abstained from voting on switching to a different form of governance
The race for Crook County judge is beginning to heat up.
   Walt Wagner, who is the Republican challenger to Mike McCabe, believes McCabe had a conflict of interest in not stepping down before voting on changing to a new form of county government.
   Wagner, who lives in Powell Butte, said there were several reasons he decided to file for judge against McCabe.
   He pointed to when Crook County Court Judge Scott Cooper spoke of the idea of potentially switching to a county commissioner-administrator form of government.
   "I thought, 'Let's see what happens,'" said Wagner.
   But Wagner decided to file for judge when McCabe, who currently serves as a commissioner, voted against switching to a commissioner form of government in February. Essentially McCabe believed the court should have placed the decision to switch to a commissioner-administrator form of government before voters.
   "I believe he should have abstained," Wagner said. "He should have declared a conflict of interest. I mean, he only had something to gain from voting against it. This is nothing personal."
   McCabe strongly disagreed with Wagner's assessment.
   "I'd say he's absolutely wrong," McCabe said. "He's wrong on all the counts. He's wrong for wanting to change the form of government without taking it to a vote of the people. He's just wrong. He's not correct on any one of those assertions."
   To gauge public opinion on whether to switch to a county commissioner-administrator form of government, the court held a public hearing at the Crook County Courthouse in February.
   "It was just quite the opposite at our town hall meeting," McCabe said. "Frank Porfily asked me how I felt. And I just said that I'm not going to show my biases one way or the other. My position, dispassionately, was that it should go to a vote of the people. Again, I didn't try to sway anybody. I just wanted it on a county ballot."
   McCabe said if voters wanted to switch to an administrator form of government, that's fine, but he insisted that it should have been placed on the ballot.