Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Initiative petition won't affect this year's two county commission races; they'll remain partisan races

By Jayson Jacoby


Baker County voters might get the chance in this November's general election to make Baker County Commissioner positions non-partisan starting in 2015.

Randy Joseph, who lives near Sumpter, has submitted an initiative petition to make that change.

He'll need to collect at least 437 valid signatures by Aug. 6 to put the measure on the ballot.

The measure will have no effect on the May 20 primary election.

Two of the three county commission positions are up for election. Two Republicans have filed as candidates for each position.

Incumbent commission chairman Fred Warner Jr. will run against Bill Harvey.

Incumbent commissioner Mark Bennett will run against Dick Fleming.

No other candidates have filed. The filing deadline is March 11.

Joseph pointed out that because Oregon has a closed primary system, unless a Democrat files for either commission race, only registered Republicans will vote in the two races in the primary election.

He notes, though, that 46 percent of Baker County voters are registered as Republicans.

"Why exclude more than 50 percent of the voters from any election?" Joseph said. "How is that beneficial to the community?"

A Democrat or other candidate could mount a write-in candidate between the primary and general elections to challenge the winner of either Republican primary.

But most likely, as things stand now, the winners of the Bennett-Fleming and Warner-Harvey races will be elected as commissioners.

Joseph, a registered Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for a county commission position in 2008. He is a member of the Baker County Planning Commission.

County commissioners are the only elected positions in Baker County government that are partisan.

In 20 of Oregon's 36 counties, the county commission positions are non-partisan.