By editorial board • 

Winner-take-all races highlight May primary

Locally, the May primary election promises intriguing campaigns for three Yamhill County county positions, and a prelude for two interesting, yet very different, competitions for House of Representatives seats.

Recent county commissioner elections have attracted handfuls of candidates, but this year it’s one-on-one, winner take all, in the May primary. Incumbent Allen Springer and McMinnville Mayor Rick Olson are expected to wage high profile campaigns over the next two months.

For those who enjoy the theatrical aspect of politics, this is your best ticket in town. The two men worked together on the McMinnville City Council, and Olson defeated Springer (along with current county Commissioner Stan Primozich) in the 2008 mayor’s race. Expansion of Riverbend Landfill could become a heated campaign issue, as Olson and the city council have publicly opposed Riverbend, while Springer recently reversed his previous vote of opposition.

In the campaign for county assessor, chief appraiser Derrick Wharff and former Assessor’s Office employee Jeanie Sandall are vying to take over from Scott Maytubby, who is not seeking re-election after two terms as head of the county’s taxation office. One possible campaign issue is how each candidate might handle the years-long property tax dispute with the Evergreen Air & Space Museum and its Wings & Waves Waterpark.

District Attorney Brad Berry, an incumbent since 1997, is facing an inner-department challenge from Deputy District Attorney Alicia Eagan.

In House District 24, encompassing McMinnville, Yamhill, Carlton and part of rural Washington county, former McMinnville Police Chief Ron Noble is seeking the House seat held for nearly a decade by his friend, Jim Weidner. Noble’s Democratic opponent is handyman, volunteer and local TV show host Ken Moore, who lost in his 2014 bid to unseat Weidner by 51 to 46 percent.

Both Noble and Moore are unopposed in the primary. Given the character of those two men, we expect a fairly cordial race in the General Election, but one never knows in the climate of this year’s presidential campaign. A rare Democratic win in District 24 would bolster the party’s current super-majority in Salem.

The race for House District 23 will surely be dramatic. Republican incumbent Mike Nearman faces not only a primary opponent, but also a possible General Election showdown against Independent Party of Oregon candidate Jim Thompson, who Nearman defeated in the 2014 primary election amid some questionable campaign tactics. No Democrat filed in District 23, which stretches from Dayton, Amity and Willamina, through rural parts of Polk and Benton counties, and picking up a pocket of rural Marion County across  the Willamette River.

Interestingly, all local nonpartisan races have just two candidates and should be decided in May, unless a write-in spoiler prevents a candidate from winning 50 percent plus one votes needed to win outright in the primary. Thus the question, will Mickey Mouse receive more than the 5 votes he earned for commissioner in 2012?

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