Bill Harvey will run against incumbent Fred Warner Jr. for the Baker County Board of Commissioners chairman, and Dick Fleming will challenge Commissioner Mark Bennett
By Chris Collins
Bill Harvey says he believes he and Dick Fleming would make a great team as county commissioners and he's willing to put his career on hold to devote his efforts to the full-time chairman's seat.
Fleming, on the other hand, has some other projects he needs to complete that would conflict with the full-time job, Harvey said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
That's what led the two men to refile their candidacies Wednesday for county commission seats.
Harvey, who will try to unseat Fred Warner Jr. as commission chairman in the Republican primary in May, originally had filed for the position held by Mark Bennett, who was appointed to the commission in May 2013 after Carl Stiff resigned for health reasons.
Fleming, 63, who had filed to run against Warner originally, instead will challenge Bennett.
Fleming challenged Warner four years ago in the general election when Warner ran as a Democrat.
Warner narrowly won that contest, with 3,543 votes, 50.8 percent, to Fleming's 3,374 votes, 48.4 percent.
Warner changed parties last year before filing for re-election in October.
No Democrats have yet filed to run in the May primary.
Because Oregon has a "closed" primary election system for partisan positions such as the county commission, only registered Republicans will be eligible to vote in the Harvey-Warner and Fleming-Bennett races.
Of Baker County's 10,023 registered voters, as of December 2013, there were 4,646 registered Republicans.
There were 2,473 registered Democrats, 2,223 non-affiliated voters, 529 Independents and smaller numbers of voters registered with other parties.
Voters have until April 29 to register to vote, or to change their party affiliation.
Even if no Democratic candidates register to run for either county commission seat, either in the primary or the November general election, a Democratic candidate could qualify for the general election ballot as a write-in.
The last day to register as a candidate for the May 20 primary is March 11.
Harvey, 60, a Baker County custom builder, has served on the county's planning commission for 12 years. His wife, Lorrie, owns the Little Bagel Shop on Main Street.
"I love this place," Harvey says of the community where he's made his home for the past 42 years.
He believes new leadership is needed at the county level, citing for example, the commission's overturning of a planning commission decision to deny construction of two wind farms in the Huntington area last year.
Harvey, the planning commission's vice chairman, abstained from voting on the issue because of her personal opposition to wind farms.
"Fred went against five of the planning commissioners and took away the rights of the citizens of Baker County and that's something that should never be done," Harvey said.
As county commission chair, Harvey says he would ensure local decision making and would protect Baker County's natural resources-based economy while working to bring jobs to the area.
He believes he and Fleming would set the county on a better course.
"I don't believe there is diversity in thought," Harvey said of the current commission. "We need a new direction. Having three people vote in the same direction every time is not helping Baker County."
Tim Kerns is the third member of the Baker County Commission. He was re-elected to a four-year term in 2012.
Harvey says he's not looking for a political career and he believes commissioners should be limited to two terms.
Warner is seeking election to a fourth four-year term.
"I just fully believe in what I'm doing and I'm willing to put my career on hold - it's that important to me and to Baker County," Harvey said.