Proposal to make commissioner positions nonpartisan moves forward

Jackson County Commissioners agreed that voters should have a say on potentially taking party politics out of races for their jobs.

Following a discussion at today's Board of Commissioners work session, the board voted to take the next steps to get a proposal on the May 2014 ballot that would make the commissioner's position nonpartisan. If the measure passes, the language of the county's home rule charter would be amended to make the jobs nonpartisan by the May 2016 primary election.

"I would like to put it before the people," said Commissioner John Rachor, who said he remains neutral on the issue after giving it some thought and doing some research.

The county also will hold another public hearing to take additional comments from citizens before making the official decision to put the measure on the ballot, though that date has not been set yet.

The idea originated with Commission Chairman Don Skundrick. During his 2010 run for office, he said the question as to why the position still had Republican and Democratic primaries was the second-most asked one during his door-to-door campaign. The post is the only county-level position to hold such primaries before a general election is held for the parties' winning contenders. There are 14 Oregon counties where the position is nonpartisan.

Officials from the Jackson County Republicans spoke out against the proposal at a public hearing last week, saying the vetting process for each candidate is would be harmed. Commissioner Doug Breidenthal echoed those sentiments at today's work session.

"It removes any formal vetting in the election process, and it puts a cloud of secrecy over the person's political views," Breidenthal said.

Officials from the Jackson County Democrats could not immediately be reached for comment.

— Ryan Pfeil

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