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Deschutes County commission candidate Brian Huntamer decides to stay in race after learning ballots already being cast

(Update: Huntamer will stay in race, learned withdrawal deadline was in mid-March)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Brian Huntamer, one of the four candidates who filed to run for Deschutes County commissioner Position 2, said Wednesday has decided not to withdraw his candidacy, in large part because he learned it was too late to remove his name from the May 21 primary ballot.

Huntamer said he made the decision after he spoke Tuesday with county Clerk Steve Dennison, the day after announcing his withdrawal at a candidate forum. He confirmed the deadline to withdraw from the race was March 15, just a few days after the filing deadline.

“According to Steve, there are many absentee ballots already received, some of which may be from voters who have cast their vote for me,” Huntamer told us. “I don’t want to see their votes not count – even one is too many."

“The voters are the main reason why I am getting back in the race. When the race is over, I want everyone to know that I gave them my best effort, in their best interests, and I always will,” Huntamer told NewsChannel 21.

Huntamer also had endorsed fellow candidate Rob Imhoff after hearing views he generally agreed with at the first candidate forum, last week. However, Huntamer said his fellow candidate’s comments during the second forum also played a role in his decision to stay in the race.

Earlier story:

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – One of the less-discussed aspects of candidate forums as they ramp up in the weeks before an election is that candidates get to meet all the others in the race and hear – sometimes for the first time -- just how aligned their views are (or are not).

And occasionally, that can lead to some late election twists and turns, as they did in the hours before Monday’s second forum of the four candidates for Deschutes County Commissioner Position 2 on the May 21 primary ballot.

Did we say four? Make that three, after Brian Huntamer’s announcement at the second forum Monday evening that he will be withdrawing from the race and throwing his support behind fellow candidate Rob Imhoff. He plans to make that step official Tuesday at the county clerk’s office.

Tracee Tuesday is attending Monday night's forum and will have what the remaining candidates shared on the issues in her report on NewsChannel 21 First at Ten on Fox and Eleven on NBC.

And there's another twist to the twist, too: It's too late to take Huntamer's name off the mail ballots.

"He is a month too late to withdraw," Deschutes County Clerk Steve Dennison told NewsChannel 21. "His name is on the ballot. Ballots have already been mailed to military and overseas voters, and we even have a handful returned! We're off to the races and he's a part of it. He can communicate with anyone he chooses regarding his status as a candidate, but he's still in the race."

Last week’s first forum, in Sunriver, focused on many major issues, from fentanyl to groundwater, and Huntamer told us he was impressed with Imhoff’s knowledge on the issues and shared views he agreed with.

After Imhoff spoke on the water issue and began by saying, “The first thing we have to do is dismiss the fear narrative,” it was Imhoff’s turn, and he first said: “I don’t think I can add a lot” to what Imhoff just told the in-person and livestream audience.

Huntamer told NewsChannel 21 on Monday evening that on the issue of water use in the county, for example, Imhoff was "more knowledgeable about it than I, but everything he said I agree with.”

Huntamer said he’s still “very adamant about the things that are important to me,” from homelessness and the county’s mental health and addiction problems to the need for greater accountability.

Huntamer said when he first filed to run in mid February -- and now as well, “I really, sincerely felt this is something I could do. I still feel that way.”

But with the two men and third challenger Judy Trego taking on incumbent Phil Chang in his bid for a second term, Huntamer said he plans to endorse Imhoff instead, largely because of their common views – and a desire not to split the primary vote in ways that can make any challenge even harder to pull off.

“That is exactly my reason,” Huntamer said.

By the way, if one candidate gets over 50% of the vote in May, they win the seat. But if not, the two top vote-getters advance to the fall election.

For Huntamer, there’s also the issue of some stubborn health problems after a bout with “long Covid,” including cataract surgeries and carpal tunnel problems.

In that health respect, he said, “I thought I’d be much farther ahead of the curve.”

Before he spoke to Monday’s forum audience with an announcement “from the heart,” Huntamer said had he not heard Imhoff express views he agreed with, "I’d still be in there as a candidate."

"I’m really not a quitter,” believing he’s made that clear in his years spent in the service, and working in construction and in real estate.

Article Topic Follows: Election

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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Tracee Tuesday

Tracee Tuesday is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Tracee here.


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