They wouldn’t square off until this fall – and that’s really not a sure a thing, with nearly a month left for other candidates to file, and Deschutes County Commissioner Mike Daly already facing three challengers in his own Republican Party as he seeks a second 4-year term.
But when La Pine retiree and Democrat Randy Gordon, so far unopposed in the May 18 primary, heard that Daly was going to file his candidacy papers for re-election on Tuesday morning at the office of County Clerk Nancy Blankenship, he figured it was as good a time as any for him to show up and file, too – and, of course, to also catch the attention of reporters on hand for that event.
Daly, who said about half of his $40,000 spent in the successful 2000 face came from his own pocket, wrote out a check for this year’s $50 filing fee. He later said his mother gave him his first $100 campaign donation, also by check. Daly was followed to the elections counter a few minutes later by Gordon, who shook Daly’s hand before handing over a $100 bill and his papers, and getting the change back.
Daly, a Redmond resident and former excavator, already faces maintenance tech Johnny Corbin, talk show host Andy Andrews and Redmond City Councilor Rick Nowak in his bid to win the GOP nomination in May and move on to a November race for a second 4-year term.
Reporters asked so many questions, of both men, that they saw little need to read the prepared speeches they handed out. Daly appeared with his wife and his two consultants, Steve Claar of Bear Creek Marketing and Ferris Top, a former Portland TV weather and newscaster who now does consulting work for political candidates. Gordon brought a small cadre of fellow Democrats to cheer him on.
“He’s a labor-friendly Democrat,” said Jeff Jensen of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 280.
In his prepared remarks, Daly said the defeat of Measure 30, while “no surprise … makes it more important than ever that your county commissioners, during these tough times, have experience, guts, integrity and common sense.”
“One of my highest priorities will be to find ways to make up for the shortfall that will greatly impact some of our most vulnerable citizens in Central Oregon,” Daly said. “We must be able to provide for mental health care, and care for the elderly.”
Daly foresees costly campaign
Daly, 61, is a former Oregon State Police officer, legal investigator, pilot and Realtor. His bio noted that he’s served on the state Construction Contractors Board and the Redmond Planning Commission, and also is a member of the Central Oregon Community Action Agency Network (COCAAN) board of directors.
“I really need a lot of help,” due to the crowded field, Daly told reporters, “and this is going to be an expensive campaign.” How costly, neither Daly nor Gordon were ready to estimate.
Asked about accomplishments, Daly pointed to the county’s $30 million building program, done “without raising anybody’s taxes. Every department pays rent, and that goes to debt service for the new buildings. I’m very proud we’ve been able to do that, in these times.”
Asked the biggest success of his term, Daly paused for a moment and pointed to the fairgrounds and its improvement from previous fiscal troubles. He called it “a phenomenal success,” with the largest event, the Family Motor Coach Association, due to return in August. The fairgrounds, he said, “bring millions of dollars to Deschutes County and the state of Oregon” economies. He also noted support through economic development dollars for the rodeo in La Pine.
As for his top short-term priority, Daly pointed to the need to pass a new 3-year sheriff’s levy in May. He did vote against the proposal as presented, because it raised the tax rates. He said he felt the department should have sought to extend the same rates as at present, in both urban and rural areas, with a better chance of success, even if it meant some cuts.
“I couldn’t support it, because this is an all-or-nothing levy,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass, the sheriff’s office goes away,” for all intents and purposes.
Daly has crossed swords at times with Sheriff Les Stiles, accusing him recently of threatening him (Stiles said he was just joking when he said, “I wouldn’t want to be caught doing 65 in a 55 (mph zone) if I were you.”)
“Les and I, I don’t think we’re mad at each other,” Daly said Tuesday. “We’ve had differences of opinion, but we both want the same thing:” permanent, stable funding for the agency.
Avoiding more cuts in health and human services budgets is “going to be a real challenge,” as will keeping a clinic open in the La Pine area.
Gordon again promotes need for planning
Gordon, meanwhile, pointed to his roles as Bend-La Pine School Board chairman and on the La Pine Rural Fire District board in claiming: “My experience and skills squarely place me as the only candidate that can be effective as a county commissioner from the very start of my term.”
Gordon, 57, also has a law enforcement background, having spent 24 years with the Puyallup, Wash., Police Department, and most recently as regional training coordinator with Oregon’s Department of Public Safety, Standards and Training.
As he did in 2000, when he ran as an independent, Gordon stressed in his undelivered, prepared remarks the need to solicit input for “a collective community vision,” turned into “a detailed plan … (a) road map” that can be used “as a standard to gauge progress. All policy decisions should be measured against the plan, to help direct us.” He also said it would make `a good report card for government officials,” to see if they are doing as they promised and the community desired.
“My opponent has had four years to develop a solution to fair taxes and permanent funding for the sheriff’s office,” Gordon said. “The other counties of our state use a variety of sheriff’s funding packages. Wouldn’t one of those work for us?”
“The people of Bend have been paying $1.5 million to $2 million a year, for several years, for services they don’t receive,” Gordon claimed, weighing in on the recent debate over urban “subsidies” of rural services. “But even worse, this poor course of action by my opponent puts rural citizens in the terrible position of losing the sheriff’s patrol or possibly doubling their property taxes to be safe in their homes.”
Gordon didn’t indicate he had his own answer to the sheriff’s funding issue, but did offer criticism of the current board: “Currently we have three commissioners with different political agendas and no shared vision,” he said. “The county is like a ship without a rudder – it doesn’t know where it’s going or how it got there. I want to build a partnership with the remaining commissioners to find that direction. Currently, my opponent reacts to issues as they come up, as if they are isolated situation.”
Daly didn’t seem too surprised that Gordon was “still calling for a long-term plan.” But as colleagues Tom DeWolf and Dennis Luke have said in the past, Daly said that each department has its own plan for the next several years, and that works better.
“I’ve been Deschutes County commissioner for three years,” he said. “The first two years is a learning process. This is a very complicated agency to be involved in. Every department has a plan. … I think Randy’s calling for an all-encompassing plan for the county. I can’t see how that would do any good.”
Daly defends votes
There’s definitely been friction at times between Daly and his colleagues, but he said, “I don’t call it bickering. Our debates get heated once in a while. We’re three different people. If we didn’t disagree now and they, they’d only need one of us, not three of us. We have different ways of thinking about things. I’m sort of conservative. I always think, `If this were my money, would I be doing this?’”
“There’s a lot of 2-1 votes,” he said. “Sometimes Dennis is on my side. Sometimes, Tom is on my side. Sometimes, they gang up on me, and that’s the process.”
Gordon criticized Daly for “voting to give millions of tax dollars for new county buildings with no public bid process,” an apparent reference to the vote last June to award a $2 million contract for a new warehouse building to Kirby Nagelhout Construction (bendbugle.com/?p=9877).
“This is legal, if you declare an emergency,” Gordon said. “The emergency boiled down to no plan and no time to plan.”
Commissioners exempted the warehouse project from the typical competitive bidding process, to use the “construction manager/general contractor” (CM/GC) process, and to get it done by this spring, as the state-county office building across the street also nears completion. Daly said Tuesday that “state law allows the county government to go through that process,” basing a decision “not on price but experience and background.”
On another issue raised by reporters, Daly said that since former sheriff Greg Brown went to prison for embezzlement, “we have really tightened up the process” for oversight of funds. He noted that banks have been told not to open accounts in the county’s name unless all three commissioners have signed off on it.
Daly said he’ll focus on his primary foes for now. Asked if he felt Gordon had horned in on his announcement day, Daly said he wasn’t upset about it, but added, “It’s not something I would have done to him,” had the shoe been on the other foot.