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Our Opinion: Zimmerman for county commissioner

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Multnomah County Commissioner

District 1

Eric Zimmerman

FILE PHOTO - Eric ZimmermanIf you need proof of the benefits of run-off elections, look no further than this race.

Eric Zimmerman, our pick in the May primary, finished a distant second and squeaked into a run-off with Sharon Meieran, who was barely mentioned in our spring endorsement.

Part of that was due to the fact the May race had five strong candidates, which made it hard for Meieran to stand out.

That hasn’t been a problem in the fall, and we can see why voters like her. The emergency room doctor has insights into health care (and particularly mental health) that would be valuable at the county. She’s seen firsthand the revolving doors between the ER, county jail and cold streets of Multnomah County. And, as a mom and former PTA president, she makes a good case for doing a better job in schools to identify problems in the home.

Our concern with Meieran is that when asked for ways in which the county could do a better job, she struggled to provide an example.

That could explain, in part, why she got the endorsement of both the county chair, Deb Kafoury, and the District 1 incumbent, Jules Bailey, who is vacating the westside district.

That’s not the case with Zimmerman. As chief of staff for District 4 Commissioner Diane McKeel, Zimmerman has a deep understanding of both the big picture and the minutia of county government. There would be no learning curve for him should he get the seat.

We also like the fact that although he lives in the county’s western-most district (stretching from Sellwood to Sauvie Island) he’s worked for the residents in East County, who often feel like Portland dominates county political decisions.

We also think Zimmerman is right on a couple of issues where he parts ways with Meieran. He’s more open than she is to looking at the vacant Wapato Jail as a potential homeless shelter and is not backing the proposal to turn the elected sheriff’s position into an appointed post.

Zimmerman isn’t perfect, of course. During an editorial board interview, we were put off by his prickly response to Meieran when she politely took issue with some of his views. We would advise him to rein in his assertiveness and find more effective ways to advance his arguments should he prevail in November.

Still, among two good candidates, he remains our solid pick.