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March 1st, 2006 Angela Valdez | News Stories
 

Calling All Candidates

Why is Sheriff Bernie Giusto unopposed?

     
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With less than a week to go before the March 7 filing deadline, Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto still doesn't have a challenger in the May 16 election.

The lack of opposition is a bit odd, given the string of scandals that have dogged the sheriff for the past year.

The barrel-chested lawman has drawn internal and external criticism for an overtime budget that's more than doubled in the past three years, and for his friendship with Lee Jeddeloh, a society regular whose husband, Jim, Giusto dispatched to the Betty Ford Center last year in a taxpayer-funded intervention.

Internal discontent also flared in January when a Giusto pal, Chief Deputy Lee Graham, resigned as head of the enforcement division after a no-confidence vote by his subordinates.

And the union that represents non-sworn members of the Sheriff's Office recently voted not to endorse the sheriff's re-election even though he's unchallenged.

Yet Giusto stands unopposed, defending his largely unpopular position like a bulldog guarding a T-bone steak. "I'd like to think people think I've done a credible job," the sheriff says.

The sheriff benefits from a lovefest with the Corrections Deputies Association, which represents 459 jail deputies. When Giusto first ran in 2002, he told the union he'd rank members' needs above public safety on his to-do list.

The union's support means campaign money if a challenger materialized.

The likelihood of a contender rising from within is slim, however. Enforcement Lt. Dave Rader explored a run late last year, met with Giusto, and dropped out.

Former Sheriff Dan Noelle can understand why potential applicants would decline to run for the $110,000-a-year post. (Noelle's wife, Portland Police Commander Rosie Sizer, was asked to run and said no.)

Noelle says any law-and-order sheriff is guaranteed to clash with the county's board of commissioners. The liberal-leaning board tends to be more interested in fluffy stuff like kids and mental health, and it controls how much tax money the Sheriff's Office gets.

And the job requirements—at least two years' law-enforcement experience—make the position a long reach for reformers from outside the thin blue line. Plus, Noelle says, "You have to be crazy."

 
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