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Race for position No. 3 heating up

One incumbent, two newcomers for Clackamas County Commission's position No. 3


Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader of Canby faces a second-time candidate and a political newcomer in the contest for Position 3.

Steve Bates of Boring lost narrowly to Commissioner Jim Bernard for Position 5 in the primary two years ago. Bates is president of Oregon Fire Equipment Co., has been in business for 45 years, and is a former chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization.

Jenifer Valley of Happy Valley is making her first bid for public office. Her main campaign goal is to encourage economic and health-care opportunities stemming from Oregon’s legalization of marijuana for recreational use in 2014.

Schrader, for her part, says she wants to continue work in economic development, services for military veterans and other programs that she has done for almost a decade as a commissioner.

The office is nonpartisan.

If none of the three candidates wins a majority of the votes cast in the May 17 primary, the top two finishers move on to the Nov. 8 general election.

The campaign took a more personal tone when Bates — who like some incumbent commissioners is highly critical of Metro, the regional planning agency — struck out at Schrader as an “absentee” commissioner at an April 23 forum at Athey Creek Middle School.

Schrader usually has not responded to Bates, but this time, she did.

Schrader said on the few times she has been away — some of them on county business at regional or national meetings — she has called in or used electronic communication to stay in touch. She also said one absence was related to her daughter’s pregnancy. 

“Remember that a candidate who has to malign another candidate is not worthy of your vote,” she concluded.

Martha Schrader

Schrader, 62, was first appointed a commissioner in 2003 and defeated Tootie Smith of Molalla for a full four-year term in 2004.

She was appointed in 2009 to the Oregon Senate seat vacated by her then-husband, Kurt Schrader, after he was elected to the 5th District congressional seat. But she lost a bid for a full term in 2010.

The Schraders divorced in 2011.

SCHRADER

She was elected as Position 3 commissioner in the 2012 primary. Smith, her former rival, was elected to the Position 4 seat in the 2012 general election.

“I am the experienced person on this commission,” Schrader said. “I am an energetic problem-solver who makes things happen and finds solutions to the issues we face.”

Schrader and Smith have teamed up as the county’s lead players on the Riverwalk and locks project at Willamette Falls, where the Blue Heron Paper Co. shut its mill in 2011.

“That is a transformative project that will bring economic development not just to Oregon City, but up and down the region,” Schrader said.

Schrader has focused on veterans’ services — she led the relevant committee during her two years in the Senate — and economic development.

She is proud of building the county’s economic development team — Clackamas County is the only one of the three metro counties with a specific agency — and making efforts to connect businesses, especially agriculture, with export opportunities.

Though she agrees with a board majority that “I believe we do have a dearth of employment land in this county,” Schrader said the solution does not rest in arguing with Metro over land use policy.

In addition to developing roads, water and sewer lines, she said, she is working on a state Public Utility Commission project to determine rural areas that are not served by natural gas.

She said development has to encompass existing communities such as Estacada and Molalla.

She also said Clackamas County should build on progress in already growing sectors such as advanced manufacturing, health care, media production, professional services and software development.

Steve Bates

Bates, 63, has focused his campaign on criticizing Schrader.

“My opponent has done nothing over the past 12 years other than to go along to get along,” he said. “As a result, Clackamas County is in the hole for employment lands. Metro is not looking out for the people.”

BATES

As chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization from 2011 to 2014, Bates has crossed political swords with Metro before. He said either the entire area should be within Portland’s regional urban growth boundary or that Metro should exclude it.

Although Metro decided last year against any expansion of the boundary, at least until 2018, Bates said he would support an expansion — or an effort in the Legislature to override Metro.

Bates was supported in his first bid in 2014 by the Oregon Transformation Project, a conservative political action committee that supported the winning bids of John Ludlow for chairman and Tootie Smith for commissioner in 2012. Both are active critics of Metro land use policies. According to the Oregon secretary of state, it has raised no money in the current election cycle.

Bates has said Schrader shares responsibility for a lagging economic recovery in Clackamas County. March figures peg the county unemployment rate at 4 percent, a shade above the 3.9 percent in Multnomah and Washington counties. The statewide rate was 4.5 percent. The county labor-force participation rate in 2015 was 63.7 percent; it was 66 percent in Multnomah County and 67.4 percent in Washington County.

Bates also said Schrader shares responsibility for deteriorating conditions of county roads and increased traffic congestion.

“They have not been solved by my incumbent opponent since 2003,” he said.

Bates, who has not been elected to public office, said he would bring his 45 years of experience in business to bear on these and other problems.

Jenifer Valley

“For me, the priority is going to be implementing our cannabis industry,” Valley said. “I want to be a county commissioner so I can usher that in.”

VALLEY

Valley, 47, got into the political arena in a roundabout way — through her personal health struggles, which were alleviated by medical marijuana, and then by the 2014 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use.

She was diagnosed with Stage 4 thyroid cancer in 1993 — she got a prognosis of six months — and received palliative care without hope of a cure.

Then after she entered a medical marijuana program in 1999, right after Oregon voters approved it, she still waited three years before she was willing to try cannabis oil.

“They told me it was going to cure my cancer, and I thought they were a bunch of nutty hippies,” she recalled.

She was convinced it would have no effect — but after undergoing scans, “every bit of cancer was gone.”

She became a fervent advocate for medical marijuana patients.

“At that point I felt it was vitally important for people to have safe access to medical marijuana,” she said.

In 2009, she became a cofounder of Stoney Girl Gardens, which produced award-winning strains — and is now one of a handful of dispensaries in the county employing 21 people at $15 per hour or more.

“It’s created a potential for a huge new sector of the health-care industry,” she said. “We can have a major effect on the county’s health and economic prospects.”

But Valley said for that potential to unfold, Clackamas County will have to modify its marijuana production and processing regulations, which are the strictest among the three metro counties.

“I think we have to be careful about embracing this market and not overregulate,” she said. “We definitely need to take this out of the black market, where no taxes are being paid, and make it like any other business.”

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