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Johnson, Witt skate as filing closes

Heimuller loses one opponent, but gains another; contested races for clerk, judge


by: FILE PHOTO - Betsy JohnsonThe candidate filing deadline for both the Columbia County Elections Department and the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office passed Tuesday, March 11, leaving both of Columbia County’s state legislators without any opposition in either the Democratic primary or general election.

Despite occupying seats more conservative than the median in Democratic-leaning Oregon, state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, and Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, appear set to cruise to reelection this year.

Witt seemed to suggest Wednesday that his lack of opposition represents a vote of confidence from his district.

“I think our agenda has broad appeal, across both aisles,” Witt said. “While Sen. Johnson didn’t have an opponent either, I would like to think the two of us have found success in being able to represent the needs and interest of our district in a manner that has been satisfactory to our broad constituency.”

by: FILE PHOTO - Brad WittWitt is one of two members of the Oregon House of Representatives whose seat is included within Johnson’s larger Senate district. The other member, Rep. Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach, was less fortunate than Witt, drawing two Republican challengers. Boone represented rural portions of western Columbia County until redistricting took effect with the 2012 election.

Allen out, Mayo in for commissioner race

This week saw a major shakeup in the only race for Columbia County commissioner on the ballot this year.

County Commissioner Henry Heimuller, seeking a second four-year term, drew another challenger Monday as Scappoose contractor Wayne Mayo filed for the race.

“I believe elections should be a contest,” Mayo said Wednesday. “That’s how our forefathers set it up.”

Mayo mentioned industrial activity in the county, which he said low land costs, energy rates and deep-water access along the Columbia River should encourage, and the county government’s role in the now-defunct Columbia Health District push to build a hospital in the county last decade as among his key issues.

by: FILE PHOTO - Wayne MayoMayo was narrowly defeated by Commissioner Earl Fisher in 2012, when he ran for a position on the board of county commissioners.

Veteran Bill Allen of St. Helens had previously filed for Heimuller’s seat. But he said Wednesday that he is withdrawing from the race.

Allen said his ability to self-fund a campaign is minimal, and although would-be donors were offering him money for the campaign, he said, “I wanted to do this without being beholden to anybody. And pretty much everybody’s saying, ‘You don’t have a chance.’”

Allen made the decision to withdraw after conferring with his wife.

“My wife phrased it well: ‘When you jumped into this, you saw the tip of the iceberg,’” Allen quoted her as saying. He added, “I underestimated the process to achieve the office.”

Heimuller touted his work as county commissioner over the past four years.

“I think that my record is very solid,” Heimuller said. “I think that I continually strive to provide great public service for this county ... and even though sometimes the decisions that I make are not popular ones, I do them for one reason, and one reason only — and that is for the betterment and long-term viability and success of Columbia County, Oregon.”

by: FILE PHOTO - Henry HeimullerHeimuller added, “I’m not the kind of guy who goes out and makes promises that I don’t feel that I can back up, and what you see is what you get. I’m honest and straightforward, and I think that people that know me know that.”

Whoever wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the two-man primary for county commissioner on May 20 will be declared elected under Oregon state law.

With the May election so close, Mayo said, “There’s not a huge amount I can do. I’m probably going to be getting some signs up and doing some door-to-door campaigning, I suppose.”

Heimuller said he plans to hold town hall meetings, participate in public forums and campaign door-to-door before the primary election. He vowed to run a positive campaign.

More county races on tap this year

In this year’s only contested Columbia County Circuit Court race, appointed Judge Jean Marie Martwick from Scappoose is looking to fend off challenges from Portland-based divorce attorney Jason Heym, also from Scappoose, and St. Helens-based attorney-at-law Cathleen Callahan of Goble. Unless one candidate clears 50 percent in the May 20 nonpartisan primary election, the top two vote-getters on that ballot will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Meanwhile, Columbia County Clerk Betty Huser, who has been serving since 1988, drew a late challenge from Brady Preheim, who owns a computer repair shop in Scappoose.

Under state elections law, Huser and Preheim’s names will not appear on the primary ballot; both candidates are automatically nominated for the general election on Nov. 4, when the race will be decided.

Other Columbia County elected officials who are running unopposed for reelection include Assessor Sue Martin, Circuit Court Judges Jenefer Stenzel Grant and Ted E. Grove, District Attorney Steve Atchison, and Justice of the Peace Wallace E. Thompson.

County voters will also have a second opportunity to vote on funding for the Columbia County Jail in May. A $7.07 million operating levy to pay for the next three years of jail operations will be on the ballot.

A bond measure will also appear on the ballot for residents of the Columbia River Fire & Rescue district, which stretches from Rainier to Warren in east Columbia County. The district’s board of directors voted Tuesday to refer the $15 million measure, which officials say is needed to pay for upgrades to fire stations and replace equipment over the next 20 years, to voters in the primary election.

Pam Benham, county elections supervisor, said a full list of May ballot measures will not be available until next week.

There is no shrieval election this year in Columbia County; Sheriff Jeff Dickerson is next up for reelection in 2016. The seats of County Commissioners Earl Fisher and Tony Hyde are also up next in 2016.

Elections to the Port of St. Helens’ governing body, the Port Commission, will next be held in May 2015. The seats of Port Commissioners Mike Avent, Colleen DeShazer and Robert Keyser will be up for election next year, while Commissioners Chris Iverson and Terry Luttrell’s terms will not expire until after the 2017 primary election.