Elected officials hit Tualatin River at Cook Park for annual race

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - Former Tigard mayor and Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen leads the racers in the Tualatin River Political Paddle Race on Saturday. On a picture-perfect Saturday morning at Cook Park in Tigard, elected officials from throughout the region snapped on their safety vests and prepared to hit the water.

Unlike their pitched battles during election season, the Aug. 23 Political Paddle Race is a time for lighthearted joking between the competitors and a time to reflect on the beauty and value of the Tualatin River.

State Rep. Margaret Doherty, wearing a tiara and clearly in high spirits, bumped kayaks on the ramp to the water with Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers.

Noticing their respective lack of paddles, Rep. Doherty said, “Roy, looks like we’re up a creek without a paddle!”

“As usual,” Rogers remarked, grinning.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - State Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard) paddles her kayak toward the finish.

Krisanna Clark, a Sherwood city councilor, watched the assembling paddlers as they politely chose boats without argument. “This is great! I’ve never done this before,” she said.

“This turnout is the best we’ve ever had, said race organizer Brian Wegener of Tualatin Riverkeepers. “It’s a demonstration of how much we care about the river.”

Last year’s winner, State Sen. Mark Hass was back to defend his title.

Some officials brought their families along, while more than a few jokes circulated about certain officials bringing ringers to strengthen their chances.

After lining up in a random cluster on the water, Wegener blew a horn with no warning, prompting surprise and a bit of squealing from the competitors as they lurched into the one-mile trip.

Newberg City Councilors Ryan Howard and Bart Rierson started from the rear, successfully avoiding the cluster of paddlers at the start, then paddled in perfect unison right through the middle to establish an early lead.

After turning at the halfway mark and surging back to the start, it was clear no one had a chance against the Newberg team, slicing through the water toward the finish.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - State Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) flashes a smile during the Tualatin River Political Paddle Race.

Hass and his staffer were well short of the mark, prompting a shout from the crowd, “Hass, I guess you’d better get another chief of staff!”

Gerritt Rosenthal, candidate for State Rep. for District 37 representing West Linn and Tualatin, sported a purple beret as he came in strong as the first single-paddler, riding in a kayak.

“Well, that was fun,” Howard said of the Newberg victory.

He held the 2014 winner’s paddle as other competitors signed it. Howard and Rierson were surprised to win their first Political Paddle Race.

Next year, Howard will run for a higher office, and he asked Rierson if he would be his partner again.

“Sure,” Rierson said. “It’s a fun event. And it’s all about the river.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - Eric Squires of Aloha, who is running for the District 26 seat in the Oregon House of Representatives, participates in the Tualatin River Political Paddle Race.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - Elected officials from Washington County pose for a group photo prior to the Tualatin River Political Paddle Race.

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