Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DA race highlights May primary

As in most non-presidential years, primaries generate few legitimate candidates and dismal voter interest.

This year is no different for Oregon's Primary on May 20.

Locally, we do have the lively district attorney race in Deschutes County pitting controversial incumbent Pat Flaherty against John Hummel, a lawyer and former Bend city councilor.

Flaherty, who upset longtime D.A. Mike  Dugan in 2010, has been a disaster. He alienated most of his staff, which resulted in lawsuits galore. Instead of fighting crime, Flaherty has spent most of his time fighting for his own legitimacy as a district attorney at considerable taxpayer expense.

Hummel is the easy choice here. He's not a hothead like Flaherty, but rather has the measured temperament needed in such a job.

There is a judge race in the county that's generating a lot of interest, for whatever reason.

Judge races at the county and statewide level are generally hard to pick. They should probably be appointed positions rather than decided by voters, who have no clue as to who these people are.

It seems that the circuit court race is down to Randy Miller and Thomas Spear.

Based on resumes, Spear is the clear choice with extensive experience in the courtroom, unlike Miller. Vote for Spear.

For the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Jeff Merkley will face whoever the Republicans throw up as their sacrificial lamb.

Current state Rep. Jason Conger from Bend is the only one in a crowded GOP field with any name recognition, and that isn't much. He's a far-right conservative, which always appeals to the Republican base in the primary.

But, he's facing a well-financed doctor from Portland, Monica Wehby, who is a moderate on social issues. The Republican establishment clearly wants her to win, given her Dorchester endorsement, because they think she has the best shot against Merkley. Former Sen. Bob Packwood termed Conger "a guaranteed loser."

But, Wehby may be considered a RINO by the Tea Party wing of GOP and that could hurt her chances on May 20.

With the economy on the rebound, either one will have a tough time against Merkley in November. Wehby, though, probably has the better odds with her name recognition in the area of the state with the most voters.

It would be better if Conger won so that Democrats won't have to spend a ton of money defending a seat that is considered safe by most politicos.

There are five Republican challengers for governor with little name recognition. Dennis Richardson, a state representative from southern Oregon, is the likely candidate to take on Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is trying to win a record fourth term. Kitzhaber, due to the failed rollout of the Cover Oregon website, is definitely vulnerable, but no worthy Republican came forward to challenge him. Heck, a political nobody almost whipped Kitzhaber in 2010.

Richardson represents the extremist side of the GOP and Oregonians don't go for extremists. He won't get nearly as many votes out of the Portland area that Chris Dudley did against Kitzhaber. So it doesn't really matter who wins the Republican primary for governor.

Both the county and Bend are asking voters for more money to pay firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

There are two reasons to vote "no" on both measures. One, the money raised is likely to be used to pay the hefty pensions of retirees, yet neither government entity is being honest with voters about this.

Second, with the end of the Great Recession, property values are soaring once again, which means more property tax revenue for local governments. Isn't that one of the rationales for growth? If the city and county are collecting more money than they were three years ago, they should have enough to pay their employees.

Plus, it's not like we've added scores of homes and thousands of people since 2008. Quite the contrary. So, with fewer residents and increasing property tax revenue we don't need another tax.


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