Candidates for May primary speak at forum
Jail closure, business recruitment and approach to Oregon law among discussion topics
Columbia County candidates running for the May 20 primary election introduced themselves to the public and fielded questions at a meet-and-greet event Friday, April 25. Candidates running for contested positions on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners and the Columbia County Circuit Court attended.
Incumbent Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller and his opponent, Scappoose contractor Wayne Mayo, responded to concerns about the countys impending jail closure, tax abatements and the potential to bring industry and business to the county.
Judge Jean Marie Martwick and her challengers for the first position on the Columbia County Circuit Court, including Portland-based divorce attorney Jason Heym and St. Helens-based attorney Cathleen Callahan, were asked about their approach to uphold Oregon law should they win election, among other things.
Judge Jenefer Stenzel Grant and her opponent for the third position on the Columbia County Circuit Court, Agnes Petersen, a St. Helens-based attorney, were asked similar questions.
The event was held at the Village Inn in St. Helens and was organized by Scappoose residents Rosemary Lohrke and Alta Lynch, who said they wanted the meet-and-greet to be nonpartisan.
Having no PA system, candidates were forced to project their voices over the noise of the audiences clanking dishes as they ordered food and drinks from the adjacent bar.
While the windowless room was packed full, not all in the audience were fully engaged. At one point an attendee fell asleep for an extended period while sitting in his chair.
The event ran for an hour and a half, most of which consisted of a question-and-answer forum.
Petersen is running a write-in campaign, as she was rejected from appearing on the May 20 ballot because she is older than 75. The Oregon Constitution requires judges to retire at age 75, but Petersen contends the law is discriminatory.
To demonstrate her youthfulness, Petersen at one point left the podium, kicked her foot over her head, pulled pom-poms out of her shirt and led the audience in a cheer.
Heimuller and Mayos approaches to the forum differed. Mayo, at times shouting into the crowd, posed solutions to funding the jail through taxing gravel leaving the county, and said he envisions a restart of paper production at the Boise Inc. mill in St. Helens.
Heimuller highlighted the work of current commissioners to save money within the county such as implementing furlough days as well as his efforts to bring business into the area, noting his recent Business Advocate of the Year award from the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce as a testament to his efforts.
While Heimuller and Mayo spoke about how they would seek to improve the county, candidates for judge were largely asked yes or no questions, such as whether they would uphold Oregon law and the Second Amendment, and commit to serving a full term. Candidates responded yes to these questions.
Quotable candidatesAdd a comment
I deal with clients that are in legal and emotional crises. Im not just their lawyer at that point, I am moral support and I work with them to get them through these times... One of the toughest things in Columbia County is seeing good and honest people who cannot afford to be represented in court.
Something that differentiates me from other candidates is that I am a master of business administration. So what that means is I have more tools in my toolshed if you will - for resolving problems.
Im firmly dedicated to handling anyone who comes in that court whether they can afford an attorney or not. Im firmly dedicated to letting them be represented and helping them get through the system whether they are represented by a lawyer or not.
With the prospect of our jail closing, you want somebody on the bench who has a lot of experience and is able to come up with some creative alternatives, which you may need very badly if we lose our jail.
A letter came to me from the secretary of state and it accused me of being unqualified. Reason: over 75 years of age. Can you believe that, in this country, with these freedoms? ...My reaction was I was totally incensed.
If they shut [the jail] down and Im elected at the same time, I will immediately press for a 65-cent per-ton depletion fee on the gravel leaving Columbia County. ... That, and additional rent money from the feds, would just about meet the needs of our jail into perpetuity if written correctly.
Just two months ago, the South Columbia Chamber of Commerce blessed me with an award that they call the Business Advocate of the Year award and its because Im out there working with businesses, companies. People call us up and say, Hey, Im thinking about doing this. We are trying to break down every barrier that we can to make businesses want to come to Columbia County versus go to Klamath versus going to Tacoma or someplace like that.