Voting for City/County Elections

Jonathan Poisner

There’s a lot of talk right now about the importance of voting “down the ballot.”

For many, “down the ballot” means the state legislature.

But the biggest undervote issues are with local government races – city and county government. Undervotes for city and county office are historically very high, in part because it’s so hard for those candidates to break through the public’s consciousness with so much going on at the top of the ticket.

In some states, like Washington, local government elections happen in odd years, which allows those races to be fully fledged on their own, without having to compete against even-year craziness. I’m not actually advocating that, as it would make for elections every year and turnout would be even lower.

But Oregon’s system does make it challenging for city and county candidates to get heard.

How can we help? Those of us who read blogs like BlueOregon should take a bit of time and email all your friends about the local government races in your area. Don’t assume your friends aren’t leaving these races blank even if they’re voting.

Take 10 minutes and create your own personal endorsement guide or forward on links to endorsements from an organization or organizations you trust.

Obviously, the organization I work for (the Oregon League of Conservation Voters) does a lot of work for city and county races because those elected officials are responsible for many decisions that impact our water, our air, and our neighborhoods. They’re responsible for coming up with sound local solutions to big international problems like global warming.

Here are OLCV’s 2008 Endorsements with the city and county elections near the bottom.

Here are some other organizations that make some local city and county endorsements.

NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon

SEIU Local 49

Basic Rights Oregon “Green Lights” on equality

Stand for Children


Apologies to organizations not listed – if you know of others, either post a comment about them or email me and I’ll try to update the blog entry to add them to this post.

In the meantime, if there are local candidates you want to plug, here's a great venue? (But don't do that and then forget to email the list of local electeds you support to your friends!).

  • Ray Duray (unverified)

    Hi Jonathan,

    Since you suggested a little promotion would be OK, here's the website of a great candidate for Bend City Council, Peter Gramlich:

    Peter is a friend and an ally in our local anti-war efforts. I view Peter as an 'up-and-comer'. Look for his rise in state politics in the coming decade.

  • Rob Milesnick (unverified)

    Thank you for posting this, Jonathan.

    City and County races are so important because local government delivers the lion's share of services that Federal and State Governments fund.

    From public safety, to child and aging services; City and Metro recycling programs to Urban Growth Boundaries; local government matters.

    And as progressives, we can make a significant and noticeable difference to the outcomes we want by; knocking on doors, volunteering for a campaign, donating money, or making phone calls for local candidates throughout Oregon...who share progressive values.

    Jonathan, I truly applaud the work OLCV has done and continues to do for local issues, and local races. Thank you.


  • Jim Oleske (unverified)

    Absolutely Essential

    Spot on, Jonathan. The national and state races are critical, and a lot of fun to watch, but we can't lose sight of the fact that some of the most critical work on the ground gets done by local government.

    I'm not sure most people think "local government" when they think environmental protection. Global warming and renewable energy are such big issues, I think it's natural to think about them in terms of national- and state-level policy. So we need organizations like OLCV to be highlighting how critical local decisions can be to the environment.

    On a different note, let me add my perspective on the importance of local government, having focused most of my attention on economic policy in recent months.

    We're facing a major economic crisis that is likely to get worse before it gets better. It's going to mean increased hardship for millions more Americans. When it comes to essential services for these Americans -- health, shelter, food -- local government is the where the rubber meets the road.

    The challenges for budget-strapped local governments in this tough economy are going to be enormous. And we need first-rate leaders and engaged communities to confront those challenges.

    I join Jonathan in urging everyone to spend time researching the local races and sharing your perspective with friends and family.

    P.S. Jonathan -- I see OLCV does not list an endorsement for the county district in which I live (Mult. 3). Does that mean OLCV supports both Shiprack and Delman, neither, or something else?

  • (Show?)

    Jim Oleske -- P.S. Jonathan -- I see OLCV does not list an endorsement for the county district in which I live (Mult. 3). Does that mean OLCV supports both Shiprack and Delman, neither, or something else?

    Both Shiprack and Delman sought our endorsement. We were unable to conclude that one of them was materially better than the other on the environment. Since OLCV only does dual endorsements in very rare circumstances, no endorsement was issued. That doesn't mean we think either of them isn't a friend of the environment. It just means we're not making a recommendation of one over the other.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for this posting. I'm planning to have something sent into Blue Oregon myself in the next few days. Meant to have something sooner, but this stupid cold just keeps kicking my butt over and over again.

    I'm running for the Gresham City Council, Position 1. I won't get into all the details right now since I'm going to do a posting, but here's the link to my web site:

  • Jim Robison (unverified)

    First, I'll give my plug for two city candidates (in two different cities) that I think deserve support.

    Amanda Fritz has earned our support for election to the Portland City Council. She has been active in community affairs in Portland for many years, and has worked hard to improve the local environment in her neighborhood, as well as support good environmental issues across the city. She has proven herself a hard worker who takes the time to be well versed in all aspects of an issue, so that she can most effectively advocate for the needs of the community.

    Jenni Simonis deserves support for election to the Gresham City Council. The other candidate (David Widmark) has served the city well, and will continue to volunteer and work on good issues even if he is not elected to a full term in the council. Jenni will bring a new perspective to the council that is currently lacking. She will represent areas of the city that are not currently represented, and she brings in the perspective of a young mother who, with her husband, are working hard to make a living and raise their daughter. Jenni is a staunch environmentalist, and worked hard to organize against Wal-Mart in Gresham, and to represent the interests of working people at the city and the state. I know that she will bring fresh ideas and a strong commitment to improving Gresham to the city council.

    Second, I want to point out several races that everyone, even OLCV, overlook. The Soil & Water Conservation Districts. There are Soil & Water Conservation Districts in every county in Oregon, each with an elected board of either five or seven members. The Soil & Water Conservation Districts work directly on issues impacting the local environment, working with landowners to protect and improve stream quality and watershed health. These positions should be give some thought.

    This year the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District has four positions on the ballot (for a seven member board), three of which have only one candidate filed, and one position with no candidates filed.

    The East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (with a five member board) has four positions on the ballot. Two positions have only one candidate filed (both of whom are very good candidates), but the other two positions require notice, because they actually have more than one candidate each.

    For those of us who live in the East Multnomah SWCD (all of Multnomah County east of the Willamette River) I recommend voting for Clair Klock and Peter Finley Fry. I have known Clair Klock for several years. He owns a blueberry farm in the Corbett area, has worked for Soil & Water Conservation Districts for many years, and is strongly committed to supporting environmental protection and working to improve the environmental health of our region. I do not know Peter Finley Fry, but I like what I have read about him so far, and considering that the other candidate for the position is Ron McCarty, I would feel much more comfortable electing Peter.

    When voting "down ballot" be sure to go ALL THE WAY down the ballot and make an informed choice in the Soil & Water Conservation Districts too.

  • Meredith Shield (unverified)


    I am the Multnomah County Field Organizer for OLCV. In response to your posting on soil and water, I totally agree with you. The local county chapter will be considering doing these endorsements in the next election cycle. We know how important these positions are. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  • County Commissioner Candidate Nadia Sindi (unverified)

    Hi Jonathan,

    Since you suggested a little promotion would be OK, here's the website of my candidacy for Nadia Sindi County commissioner

    I'm running as a "WRIT IN" since I was cheated in the primary. My name was not on the ballot.


  • Steve Hauck (unverified)

    Here's another little promotion piece for my candidacy for Mayor of Ashland. You can visit my website at



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