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Deschutes commissioners hold off on proposal to make positions non-partisan

(Update: Adding Video, Commissioners' decision, comments from commissioners, OSU-Cascades political science professor)

Commissioners determine expense not worth it for single ballot measure

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- On the agenda at Monday afternoon's Deschutes County Board of Commissioner's meeting: non-partisanship.

The three commissioners, including a newcomer who raised the issue, are looking toward the future, when one day their seats might not be affiliated with a political party.

“We have the opportunity to make running for office, a simpler, shorter and less expensive process,” Commissioner Phil Chang, a Democrat, said.

Chang, the newest member of the board, campaigned on making the position of county commissioner non-partisan last November.

Judy Stiegler, a political science instructor at OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College, told NewsChannel 21 earlier Monday, “I think there’s a good possibility that if a measure like this gets on the ballot, it could very well pass.”

As it turns out, it just won’t happen this year.

A ballot measure to make the position of county commissioner non-partisan would cost $140,000, to conduct the election, if it didn't share the special election ballot with anything else.

So the commissioners decided that sum of money for one ballot measure was impractical.

Republican Commissioner Tony DeBone said, “What a shame. It sounded like there may be an opportunity to get this to an election, and if putting it in some point in time. But that $140,000 just doesn’t sound like the right investment, at this point in time.”

But that doesn't mean the idea goes away. Instead, it might get considered for the next regular ballot, the May 2022 primary.

Across the state, 26 of Oregon’s 36 counties have non-partisan county commission seats, including neighbors Crook and Jefferson.

Stiegler, a former Democratic state representative from Bend, said after numerous failed attempts over the years, now may be the time in Deschutes County.

“The face of the county is changing” from its more conservative past, she said. “It has become a much more moderate county.”

DeBone agreed.

“I’ve been in office for 10 years, run for office three times -- and it has really changed,” he told NewsChannel 21 before the meeting.

Registered Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans in Deschutes County, according to the county clerk’s office. But right behind the two major parties are non-affiliated voters, representing near a third of total voters.

But for partisan races, those unaffiliated voters can’t vote in primaries.

“There’s that other third, unaffiliated, independent -- there’s other parties too, we can acknowledge, that want to see the names on the ballot in the primary,” DeBone said.

While the election expense is restricting the board now, the thought isn’t dead for later elections, or through a citizen petition effort.

Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Election / Government-politics / Top Stories
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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.



  1. I would support this if its part of going to a home rule charter, its time we had district commissioners and appointed our sheriff, especially considering weve recently had a felon as sheriff and now a racist sheriff… we need to join the 21st century asap, even if am radio loudly pretends otherwise

    1. You could not be more wrong if you than if you had said it backwards mouse. The people of Deschutes County have “ALWAYS” elected our sheriff. If you don’t like it MOVE!!!!!!!!

      1. Electing the sheriff has also gotten us some real duds over the years, with 200000 people its time for us to look in the mirror and admit we are an urban area no matter how much it pains some of us

    2. Frankly the time has come for people like you to be sued for libel/slander when you label someone a racist – with no proof/evidence that would stand up in a court of law such an allegation is true.

      I would hope Barney begins looking hard at such comments and either does not publish them…or blocks their authors from further comment.

        1. Sheriff nelson can see which way the winds of racial justice are blowing at the moment, as well any of us can… instead of nobly trying to make things better like bpd chief krantz has done, or at least staying neutral like most other oregon law enforcement agencies, nelson is actively taking sides with the minority that sees value in racially extremist propaganda (and more worryingly, using public funds to do it)

            1. Its a fake color illegal us flag in fact, on the back of the dcso rigs… and its official display by law enforcement creates a hostile workplace according to other oregon cases

          1. Everything I find in searches is about how someone NAMED in an allegedly defamatory or slanderous comment can find and sue an anonymous commenter. I don’t find anything about one anonymous commenter suing another for such things. But hey, as I’ve said many a time, anyone can sue anyone for anything. Winning is something else. But comment systems have and will disappear over such things, I suppose. Maybe that’s the goal.

    1. Ooooo im sorry if finding out a candidates politics without explicitly being told them is too complex for you, apparently youre another product of our states chronically underfunded and underperforming public school system?

    2. True. All one need do is say they’re a Republican, win the primary for commissioner, and likely get enough fools to vote them into the job because they ran as a Republican in Deschutes County

    3. The largest political “party” in Oregon is the Non Affiliated Voters.
      Political parties are shrinking and may even be going extinct. I have been registered as a Non Affiliated Voter since the early ’90s. In a lot of ways I am anti-partisan. The road to national ruin is lined with partisan political yard signs.

      Radical Centrism keeps getting more attractive.

  2. Kind of like “non gender specific” labeling. What makes a person non-partisan, a “no” vote, alternating a vote between Democrat and Republican agendas or, a good poker face?

    1. Looks like you should ask “nonpartisan” sheriff shane nelson, who even paints his extremist politics on the back of the patrol cars, no matter how much legal jeopardy it puts our county in- google is full of news stories about other oregon counties suffering big embarrassing settlements because of law enforcement using similar propaganda symbols in the workplace, time for deschutes co to grow up

      1. So, are you going to step up and file a lawsuit against the County Sherriff over this or just beat your gums and throw hissy fits? Man up for what you believe in or walk away and go back into mammas basement.

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