Clackamas County Republicans Move Right

It’s an odd development in a county where Democrats hold a 6-point voter registration advantage.

As WW reported earlier, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners moved right on Nov. 8 and, although nonpartisan, now includes four Republicans among its five commissioners.

Incumbent Paul Savas, a moderate Republican, trounced challenger Libra Forde, a Black nonprofit executive. More surprising: Ben West, a Republican nurse from Wilsonville, knocked off incumbent Commissioner Sonya Fischer, a Democratic lawyer, who, with strong backing from unions and other Democratic groups, outraised West.

The winners join Chair Tootie Smith and Commissioner Mark Shull to give Republicans a 4-1 advantage on the board in Oregon’s third-largest county, where Democrats hold a 6-point voter registration advantage (the lone Democrat is Commissioner Martha Schrader).

“I thought it was very curious,” says Clackamas County Democratic Party chair Jan Lee. “We certainly still vote like a purple county.”

The county’s party apparatus moved even further right—into extremism.

In party elections last week, Daniel Tooze, a self-proclaimed Proud Boy from Oregon City, who came up short in his bid for the Republican nomination in House District 40 in May, won election as vice chairman.

And for party chair, members selected Rick Riley, who is associated with the county chapter of the group Take Back America, which denies the results of the 2020 presidential election and espouses an “America first” policy.

Tooze and Riley could not be reached for comment.