By editorial board • 

Calling all candidates: This is a banner election year locally

This is shaping up as a virtually unprecedented election year in Yamhill County. If there’s ever been a local electoral menu carrying as much importance, intrigue and novelty, it’s long ago faded from our memory banks.

For starters, voters have already had the rare opportunity to weigh in on a pair of recall efforts in Newberg, turning them both back.

It appears likely they will be asked to decide the fate of another on April 5, this one targeting County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer. What’s more, the other two county commission seats are both in play, as Mary Starrett’s term is expiring and Casey Kulla has given up his seat mid-term to run for the office of state labor commissioner.

Starrett is seeking re-election. She has drawn a credible challenger in Doris Towery, and Kit Johnston has filed for Kulla’s seat. However, there is room for plenty more candidates in these two non-partisan races, ensuring they are decided in full-blown, high-turnout November runoffs.

Later in the year, voters will get the virtually once-in-a-lifetime chance to help fill a newly created congressional district, the Oregon 6th.

Republican-leaning Yamhill County has traditionally occupied the seldom-visited outer stretches of Oregon’s solidly Democratic 1st District, where its contrarian views got swamped every two years, right on schedule. Thanks to redistricting, it now occupies the very heart of the new 6th, which leans Democratic, but not nearly to the extent the 1st does.

Open congressional seats don’t come along very often either, representing another plus.

Republican Ron Noble was unable to resist the lure of the new made-to-order congressional district, opening up his House 24 legislative seat. McMinnville businesswoman and civic leader Lucetta Elmer has already filed for the GOP nomination, and we hold high hopes other candidates will be emerging, on both sides of the aisle, as the March 8 filing deadline approaches.

The district, which encompasses most of Yamhill County, should prove competitive. It leans Republican, but is not out of reach for Democrats.

On the north, the county includes small slices of two other House Districts — 26, represented by Democrat Courtney Neron of Tigard, and 31, represented by Democrat Brad Witt of Clatskanie.

On the south, it includes a larger chunk of House District 23. A Republican stronghold, the district is represented by Anna Scharf of Salem, appointed to replace Mike Nearman upon his expulsion from the Legislature.

The county’s main Senate seat, District 12, is not up this year. However, seats are up in Districts 13, represented by Republican Kim Thatcher of Keizer, and 16, just vacated by Democrat Betsy Johnson for a gubernatorial run. And both lap into the outer edges of the county.

We have two seats up on the circuit court bench, those of John Collins and Cynthia Easterday. Unfortunately, Collins retired a year before the end of his term, so his seat will initially be filled by gubernatorial appointment.

That will give someone a leg up in one race, and Easterday is unlikely to face a challenge in the other. We would prefer to see the kind of open-seat free-for-all that propelled Jennifer Chapman to the bench in 2018, when she replaced the retiring Ronald Stone.

The county will also get a chance to have its say in perhaps the most intriguing governor’s race in Oregon history.

Topping an already long list of hopefuls are House Speaker Tina Kotek, running as a Democrat; Salem physician Bud Pierce, running as a Republican; and State Sen. Betsy Johnson, running as an independent. That’s not to mention potential Yamhill County favorite son candidate Nick Kristof, a Democratic outsider awaiting word on a residency challenge.

All four can and already have raised the money to make it interesting. And Johnson’s candidacy ensures it will remain at least a three-way race in November, no matter how the primary shakes out.

We are enthused to see the strong early interest shown in the governorship and congressional seat, both already counting more than a dozen contenders. We would be a lot more enthused to see like interest develop in the local county commission and House 24 races, which is where the rubber really meets the road around these parts.

We like choices. We like a wide range of choices even better.


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