Bruce Nichols earned a second 4-year term on the Baker County Board of Commissioners in Tuesday’s election, and county voters extended a pair of property tax levies, one to control noxious weeds and the other to combat mosquitoes.
In unofficial results from the County Clerk’s office, Nichols received 3,470 votes (62.2%) to Loran Joseph’s 2,083 votes (37.4%).
Joseph, who is Baker City’s mayor, was the only candidate to challenge Nichols, who was elected to his current term in 2016.
“I am very appreciative of everybody who supported me,” Nichols said Wednesday morning.
Nichols said he was pleased with his margin of victory.
He said he was nervous as he awaited election returns, wondering if Joseph’s prominence as mayor in Baker City, where 60% of the county’s residents live, would give Joseph an advantage.
Nichols said he believes he benefited from his experience.
“I think that was a big deciding factor,” said Nichols, 68, who’s a CPA.
Nichols also thinks some voters might have been less likely to consider making a change on the three-member Board of Commissioners during the coronavirus pandemic, preferring instead to maintain continuity among the county’s elected officials.
Joseph, 39, agreed it’s “very possible” that voter trepidation during this unprecedented crisis made the incumbent’s usual advantage even greater than normal.
“Bruce was doing a very good job with his virus response,” Joseph said.
Joseph said the pandemic also “made it very difficult for me to campaign the way I wanted to.”
He said he had hoped for a larger turnout, as well.
About 46.6% of Baker County’s 12,171 voters returned their ballot.
Joseph’s term on the Baker City Council ends Dec. 31, 2020. He is not eligible to run for re-election due to the term limits clause in the city charter.
Noxious weed levy
This countywide, 4-year levy raises about $100,000 per year and provides about 30% of the revenue to control weeds such as whitetop, Scotch thistle and others that can reduce the value of farm and grazing land.
The weed control levy passed with 3,864 votes in favor (68.6%) and 1,765 opposed (31.4%).
The levy’s tax rate is about 5.9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value — about $8.85 per year for the owner of a $150,000 property.
Mosquito control levy
Officially called the “vector control” levy, this 4-year tax assessment helps pay to control mosquitoes in a 200,000-acre district that includes most of Baker, Bowen and Keating valleys.
The levy passed easily, with 2,998 voters in favor (70.2%) and 1,270 opposed (29.8%).
The vector control district has two main sources of revenue. There is a permanent tax rate of 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, and the local option levy — the one voters approved Tuesday.
The local option levy is about 15.3 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Pine Eagle Health District levy
Voters in the Pine Eagle Health District in eastern Baker County by a wide margin renewed the local option levy to help operate the Pine Eagle Clinic in Halfway for five more years. The measure passed with 293 voters in favor (74.2%) and 103 opposed (25.8%).
The levy will raise about $735,200 over the five years. The tax rate is 85 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.