Similar themes in county commissioner races

Judgment day is coming soon as the ballots for the upcoming primary election will be mailed out Friday.

The county commission races are the center of the rather small local political world this primary season. Two of the three spots are on the ballot: three candidates are running for position 1, and two for position 2.

None of the five candidates is running with a paradym-changing message. In fact, the campaign themes for all can be generally defined as: they will represent "the entire county," will be financially conservative with the county budget, and will do what they can to promote business development in the county.

Pretty predictable campaign jargon, but I'm pretty sure they all want good things for the county.

Let's look at position 1.

Tom Brown may be the most experienced for the job, based on government and quasi government service. Brown has been on the Madras City Council for years, currently been a chamber board member, longtime business owner and a leader with the Airshow of the Cascades. His wife, Janet, is a former commissioner and the current county business development coordinator with Economic Development for Central Oregon. Local government and business development is a daily conversation in their household.

Mae Huston has been the hardest working campaigner of the three candidates this spring, attending many events and gatherings over the past several weeks. She's also the most politically involved, as a leader of the local Republican Party, and very comfortable on the public stage addressing issues. No doubt she would be comfortable as a commissioner.

Mike Throop is one of two county employees running for commissioner this spring. He is the former human resources director at Bright Wood, the county's largest private employer, and currently works as the human resources technician for the county.

Throop was also formerly a popular Jefferson County sheriff in the 1990s, but lost his law enforcement career due to falsely reporting the source of a campaign contribution. It was a serious mistake in judgment, both the action and in vehemently challenging the charge, but it shouldn't ban him from consideration from office a decade and a half later. He offers both law enforcement and HR experience, and give him credit for getting back into the ring.

Essentially, I believe any of the three has the capacity to do the job, and none stands so far above the others to make them an obvious choice. No doubt each of the three hopes to garner 50 percent of the vote, which would determine this position in the primary. I doubt that will happen with three candidates splitting the pie (meaning the second two would have to average less than 25 percent of the vote). Instead, the top two will emerge to face off in the November election, and the electorate will have more time to compare them head to head. I expect that to be Brown and Huston.

In the other commissioner race, incumbent Mike Ahern (who is my brother for those wondering about the name similarity, or an inherent prejudice) is being challenged by Floyd Paye.

Fortunately for the county, Mike doesn't need me or this column to tout his contributions to the community and, specifically, county government. But it’s important for voters to know that he's been an effective leader on the commission during these past eight years, certainly in keeping the county financially healthy during the recession. He adeptly runs the fine line between being financially conservative with public funds while also being visionary in what government can and should do. We should keep him in office.

Like his opponent, Paye is also a lifetime local, a very well-liked individual. He's been a county road department employee since he was 19. He also established his own weed-spraying business, which he's maintained for several years, and serves on an irrigation district board. He also has been a dedicated wrestling official and ambassador for the sport.

I can't tell you to vote for him in this case, but I can't tell you anything negative about Mr. Paye, either.

Congratulations to all five candidates. Thank you for putting your names on the ballot, submitting yourselves for public judgment. It takes real courage.




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