In the bare-knuckle world of Clackamas County politics, even endorsements are opportunities for attacks.
Over the weekend, Clackamas County Chair John Ludlow circulated his endorsements for two seats on the five-member county board. Ludlow is picking Lake Oswego City Councilor Karen Bowerman over incumbent Commissioner Paul Savas and Steve Bates, chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization, over incumbent Jim Bernard.
Often, presiding officials stay out of closely contested races because they will have to work with whoever wins—and therefore they don't want to risk the awkwardness of potentially endorsing the losing candidate.
Ludlow clearly does not let such considerations worry him. In the document he circulated, he went right after Savas and Bernard.
"A series of serious mistakes by previous Commissioners inspired a majority of voters to change leadership in 2012. Now commissioners Savas and Bernard, both up for re-election, are repeating those mistakes. As Commission Chair, I am committed to supporting the will of the voters, and because of that and their excellent qualifications, I will offer my wholehearted endorsement to their challengers, Karen Bowerman and Steve Bates. In Commissioner Jim Bernardâs case, he played an instrumental role in the âbig threeâ mistakes made by the Board of Commissioners in recent years. He voted to commit county taxes or fees to: 1) rebuild a Portland Bridge, 2) expand urban renewal spending and, 3) pay for a controversial new light rail line," All without seeking voter approval. The voterâs âschooledâ the Commission on all three of those issues, demonstrating exactly how far out of step those commissioners had become. Throughout this period, Commissioner Bernard consistently maintained that in a ârepresentative form of governmentâ county taxpayers need not weigh in such matters. I am amazed that he hasnât learned anything from the voter uprisings over the last three years," Ludlow wrote."As the longest serving commissioner on this Board, Commissioner Bernard has overstayed his welcome. Commissioner Paul Savas on the other hand is a frequently confused and ineffective commissioner. Commissioner Savas refused to take a position on assessing new county vehicle registration fees to pay for Portlandâs Sellwood Bridge, stating (inexplicably) that it was not appropriate for a Commissioner to do that. When the public vote came, he was unable to make a decision and ultimately left his ballot blank. On the County Commission he carries the dubious honor of being the commissioner most likely to abstain on an issue. Too often, Commissioner Savas is unable to make up his mind about important county issues, and when he does, he frequently comes up with the wrong answers. For example, Commissioner Savas voted against the citizenâs initiative to increase public oversight on urban renewal spending. Despite his opposition, the measure passed with over 70% support from county voters. That election result should have been a wakeup call for Commissioner Savas, but he failed to grasp the message."
âItâs unfortunate that my colleague has turned his endorsement into an attack on me rather than educating voters on where my opponent stands on the issues that matter most to our community. He has deleted and distorted the facts on recent issues, including my role in the Urban Renewal District decision, which I have been working to close since 2011. While Chair Ludlow mentions my abstentions, he failed to mention how his disorganization left the commission ill-prepared to responsibly vote on critical issues. This pattern of sandbox politics is simply inappropriate and not welcome in Clackamas County."