Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Baker County Sheriff Mitchell Southwick has a challenger for re-election, and the race for Justice of the Peace is a bit less crowded.

Tuesday was the deadline to register as a candidate for any of several county positions.

Dee Gorrell, a former sheriff's deputy who also ran for the sheriff's job in 2004, will try to unseat Southwick in the Nov. 6 general election.

Meanwhile, the two local attorneys who had filed for the Justice of the Peace position, Robert Whitnah and Damien Yervasi, have withdrawn.

That leaves seven candidates vying for the position, which does not require legal experience.

Don Williams was the latest candidate to file, joining Michael Downing, Steve Bogart, Gail Duman, Roger Coles, Floyd Morgan and James Miles Cornelius.

Gorrell, who also has worked as a drug detective, K-9 officer and jail supervisor for Baker County, said he believes "it's time for a change."

"Things need to be upgraded. people need to be trained appropriately," he said.

Gorrell said deputies need to receive more training. He also wants to improve jail operations and take actions to lessen the crime rate.

Gorrell is completing advanced certificate training currently.

Southwick was elected to his first four-year term as sheriff in 2004, and he ran unopposed in 2008.

Because there are just two candidates, voters will not choose a sheriff in the May 15 primary.

Instead, Southwick and Gorrell will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

The situation is different in the Justice of the Peace race, with its seven candidates.

They will be on the May 15 ballot.

If one candidate receives 50 percent of the votes cast, plus at least one vote, that person will be elected.

If not, the top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 election.

Williams, who filed for the office this week, has filled in as Justice of the Peace occasionally.

The County Board of Commissioners voted last month to reduce the Justice of the Peace from full time to part time, which cut the yearly salary to about $32,000.

Commissioners also reassigned misdemeanor cases to the Baker County Circuit Court - a move that allowed an additional savings to the county because the state would have to pay for indigent defense services.

Yervasi wrote on his candidacy withdrawal form that the change "emphasizes revenue generation over justice and places the Justice of the Peace in an untenable position."

Lise Yervasi, current Justice of the Peace and Damien's wife, isn't running for re-election. Her term ends Dec. 31.

The commissioners' decision to reduce the position was prompted by a state law that took effect Jan. 1. The law shifts much of the revenue from fines and fees from Justice Courts to the state.

Candidates have until Friday, March 9, to withdraw their names from the ballot.

Running unopposed for other local offices are County Commissioner Tim L. Kerns, District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff, County Assessor Kerry Savage and County Surveyor Tom Hanley.

Baker County Circuit Court Judge Greg Baxter also is running unopposed.