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County races start to jell

Three candidates for the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners waited until the last day possible to file last week, rounding out nearly a dozen candidates running for three vacancies.

Up for grabs are a $97,890 annual salary and the right to represent one of three districts spanning most of the sprawling county and its nearly 800,000 residents. The Multnomah County board oversees a $1.7 billion budget, much of it spent on health, human services and public safety.

Replacing Jules Bailey

The most heavily contested race is for District 1, where seven candidates are competing to succeed mayoral candidate Jules Bailey. The district covers much of the western part of the county and central Portland, extending eastward to Southeast Cesar Chavez Boulevard and bounded by the Willamette River and Interstate 84 to the north.

“I love a free-for-all, and this incumbent-less race promises just that,” says Ken Stokes, the last candidate to file for the seat.

Stokes, an economist born and raised in Portland, consulted and ran a nonprofit sustainability institute in Hawaii before retiring to his hometown two years ago. He’s now a Goose Hollow activist.

But he’s not raising money, intending to rely on Twitter and candidate forums to get the word out instead. That approach comes in contrast to four other candidates in the race who have raised $10,000 or more.

Brian Wilson, a longtime civic volunteer who worked for his family’s real estate business, lost to Bailey for the seat in 2014. He says it’s hard to say how voters will decide, but cites his endorsements from former Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Basic Rights Oregon. He has raised $30,000 this year.

Sharon Meieran, an emergency room doctor, serves as medical director of the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Rights. She’s an advocate for mental health reforms and serves on the advisory board set up to oversee the Portland Police Bureau’s compliance with a federal civil rights settlement.

“Whatever any of us has done before, nobody knows us from a voter’s standpoint,” she says. “I think it’s a wide open race.”

Mel Rader heads a public health advocacy group and was active in the unsuccessful push to fluoridate Portland’s water. He has raised nearly $26,000, receiving endorsements from Metro councilors Bob Stacey and Sam Chase, as well as activist Kayse Jama.

Another candidate in the race is Eric Zimmerman, who serves as chief of staff for District 4 Commissioner Diane McKeel. He’s raised more than $17,000 and has endorsements from McKeel and several other local officials, ranging from Sheriff Dan Staton to state Rep. Brent Barton. Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.

Marisha Childs, an attorney who specializes in elder law, also is campaigning for the seat. She has raised more than $1,600 and says she has volunteers helping her campaign.

Another late filer for the seat is Wes Soderback, a small business owner and former Merchant Marine deck officer who has run for the county board several times before.

East County race

The other contested county seat is to replace McKeel in District 4, covering the east part of the county.

There, Gresham City Councilor and insurance agent Lori Stegmann has raised about $110,000 since the start of 2015.

Her main opponent, Amanda Schroeder, is a veterans service representative for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A veteran of the U.S. Army, she serves as president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2157. She has raised more than $18,000.

A late filer, Stan Dirks, is a former Wood Village city councilor. He says he doesn’t plan to campaign too vigorously, and doesn’t think he’ll win. He wants to use his race to highlight what he says is too much of a focus on the city of Portland at the board.

“I think east county needs to have more of a voice,” Dirks says.

Only one candidate, state lawmaker Jessica Vega Pederson, has filed for the race to succeed Judy Shiprack in District 3, covering much of the eastern portion of Portland south of I-84.