Clackamas County elections live chat with Yuxing Zheng
11:50
The Oregonian: 
Welcome to our Clackamas County elections live chat. Yuxing will join us at noon. Until then, please feel free to submit your questions and comments. Expect a short delay between the time you hit "send" and the time you see your entry in the chat.
Friday November 9, 2012 11:50 The Oregonian
12:00
Yuxing Zheng: 
Hi! I'm Yuxing Zheng. I cover Clackamas County for The Oregonian. Please send me your questions and I'll do my best to answer them.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:00 Yuxing Zheng
12:00
[Comment From S CarpenterS Carpenter: ] 
What is the status on the elections worker who altered ballots? Is she being charged and prosecuted?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:00 S Carpenter
12:01
Yuxing Zheng: 
Hi, S Carpenter: Deanna Swenson has not been arrested or charged yet. The Oregon Department of Justice's investigation isn't finished yet. I'm told that the investigation should be done soon, as in a matter of days.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:01 Yuxing Zheng
12:02
Yuxing Zheng: 
I heard from my colleague, Jeff Mapes, who spoke with Secretary of State Kate Brown, that criminal charges will likely come in the next couple of weeks or so.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:02 Yuxing Zheng
12:03
Yuxing Zheng: 
Another question I've heard from readers is: "How do investigators know if a ballot has been tampered with?"
Friday November 9, 2012 12:03 Yuxing Zheng
12:04
Yuxing Zheng: 
The answer is pretty much what you'd expect: It can be hard to tell. In this case, Swenson was allegedly caught using a pencil she'd brought in herself to mark a ballot where the original voter had used a pen.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:04 Yuxing Zheng
12:04
The Oregonian: 
Readers, what do you want to know about the elections? Or Clackamas County politics? Send in those questions and comments.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:04 The Oregonian
12:05
Yuxing Zheng: 
That's also part of the reason why the investigation can take some time. It's a very manual process that is, to some degree, subjective. The investigators are looking at all the ballots Swenson might have come into contact with to examine them all.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:05 Yuxing Zheng
12:06
The Oregonian: 
How many ballots are in question?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:06 The Oregonian
12:06
Yuxing Zheng: 
Investigators still won't say how many ballots they're reviewing.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:06 Yuxing Zheng
12:06
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How will this election affect the inner workings of the commissioners' office and its relationship with the county manager?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:06 Guest
12:07
Yuxing Zheng: 
That's a great question!
Friday November 9, 2012 12:07 Yuxing Zheng
12:08
Yuxing Zheng: 
A bit of background: Because John Ludlow and Tootie Smith are both conservatives, they'll likely join with Commissioner Paul Savas, a fellow Republican, to constitute a new conservative majority. The board right now is a 4-1 majority for Democrats.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:08 Yuxing Zheng
12:09
Yuxing Zheng: 
I've heard rumors that staff are perhaps anxious. You'll recall that the last County Administrator, Jonathan Mantay, was replaced with his deputy, Steve Wheeler, not too long after former Chairwoman Lynn Peterson came to power.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:09 Yuxing Zheng
12:10
Yuxing Zheng: 
As with any change in leadership -- and especially this time with major power shift -- top managers might go. I'm not saying Steve Wheeler will definitely go, but I'm sure it's something Ludlow and the new majority will consider.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:10 Yuxing Zheng
12:11
Yuxing Zheng: 
Most new leaders won't take immediate action regarding department heads and top managers, but will likely get to know the departments and individual managers first, and then decide months later if a change in leadership is perhaps needed.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:11 Yuxing Zheng
12:12
The Oregonian: 
Readers, what's your reaction to election results in Clackamas County? Surprised? Happy? Disappointed? Please chime in.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:12 The Oregonian
12:12
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
I am very concerned that a great deal of money from the Transformation Project went to Clackamas County candidates. What impact will this have on the future direction of the county?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:12 Guest
12:13
Yuxing Zheng: 
Hi, there. That's a great question, too. The OTP really changed the way the game is played in Clackamas County.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:13 Yuxing Zheng
12:14
Yuxing Zheng: 
In some ways, the OTP political action committee supplanted the traditional structure of how you run for county races. They essentially served almost like their own political party, endorsing a slate of candidates and dumping lots of money to support their candidates.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:14 Yuxing Zheng
12:14
Yuxing Zheng: 
I think it's especially interesting if you look at the case of Paul Savas, who is a more moderate Republican and enjoyed a lot of countywide support as well as support from the Clackamas County Republican Party.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:14 Yuxing Zheng
12:15
The Oregonian: 
In case you missed it, here's Yuxing's latest story on OTP: http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-city/index.ssf/2012/11/oregon_transformation_project_2.html
Friday November 9, 2012 12:15 The Oregonian
12:16
Yuxing Zheng: 
The OTP didn't endorse him after he entered the chair race last fall. In fact, OTP officials essentially went out and recruited John Ludlow to enter the race late in January. This, despite Paul's countywide name recognition and support.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:16 Yuxing Zheng
12:17
Yuxing Zheng: 
Ludlow, with the support of the OTP's money, came out tops in the May primary, eliminating Savas, who finished third.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:17 Yuxing Zheng
12:17
Yuxing Zheng: 
I think the impact of the OTP is that, especially for Republicans, if you don't win their support and they end up endorsing another candidate, they can bury you in campaign ads and mailers.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:17 Yuxing Zheng
12:18
Yuxing Zheng: 
And with Charlotte Lehan and Jamie Damon, they had a significantly larger pool of individual donors, but they all donated smaller amounts. In the end, I think you saw just how much of an impact money had on local races.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:18 Yuxing Zheng
12:18
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Do you think that voters were sufficiently aware of OTP's influence in this election?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:18 Guest
12:19
Yuxing Zheng: 
I think people were aware of the "Stop Portland Creep" billboards and slogans, but I don't think they were necessarily aware that it was the OTP-PAC who paid for all that.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:19 Yuxing Zheng
12:20
Yuxing Zheng: 
The OTP-PAC also sent out several mailers targeting Lehan and Damon and promoting Ludlow and Smith, but it was very small writing on the bottom right that said OTP-PAC, though the return addresses listed the group.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:20 Yuxing Zheng
12:21
Yuxing Zheng: 
Their name is also such as, unless you Google the group or read an article about them, you don't really know what "Oregon Transformation Project" means. The name in some ways sounds almost progressive.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:21 Yuxing Zheng
12:21
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
I'd like to see the Clackamas county vote re-taken as a result of the ballot stuffing. It is unacceptable that someone was caught doing this and there is only an investigation.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:21 Guest
12:22
Yuxing Zheng: 
I highly doubt they would do a re-vote. For one, the investigation is wrapping up and it looks like the number of suspect ballots is relatively small -- 6 at last count.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:22 Yuxing Zheng
12:23
Yuxing Zheng: 
And, at the end of the day, elections are costly. It would cost Clackamas County a lot of money to conduct another election. I will add that Charlotte Lehan and Jamie Damon, last I heard, had not ruled out possible legal action. Neither one of the two were at the Thursday morning board meeting, and as far as I'm aware, neither has publicly conceded.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:23 Yuxing Zheng
12:23
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
If people want to stop the OTP creek in Clackamas County, how can we even begin to counteract that much money?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:23 Guest
12:23
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
The name Oregon Transformation Project is actually accurate, as I understand it. They intend to use Clackamas County as a wedge to "transform" all of Oregon.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:23 Guest
12:24
Yuxing Zheng: 
Honestly, I think the Democrats will need to up their fundraising game in Clackamas County if they want to counter OTP's money.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:24 Yuxing Zheng
12:25
Yuxing Zheng: 
There were several $5,000 donations that came in towards the end to an independent PAC called "Focus on the Future" that mostly involved companies involved with rail trying to help Lehan and Damon. But that money was a little too late.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:25 Yuxing Zheng
12:26
Yuxing Zheng: 
A lot of folks will also say that it was the Lehan and Damon themselves who helped Ludlow and Smith by pushing the $20 million light rail payment through 4 days before the 9.18.12 special election.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:26 Yuxing Zheng
12:27
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Have the names of specific donors to the OTF been made public?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:27 Guest
12:27
Yuxing Zheng: 
There was a lot of lingering discontent and flat out anger from that vote that I think really came back to haunt Lehan and Damon. One voter showed up to the Clackamas County Elections Office on Tuesday afternoon thinking he was voting on light rail, not realizing that the rail vote was in September.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:27 Yuxing Zheng
12:28
Yuxing Zheng: 
Yes, all names of OTP-PAC donors are public and searchable through the Oregon Secretary of State's ORESTAR system.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:28 Yuxing Zheng
12:28
Yuxing Zheng: 
The OTP-PAC's main donor is Stimson Lumber.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:28 Yuxing Zheng
12:28
[Comment From guestguest: ] 
Are there really "two" Clackamas Counties- the more rural one that always votes conservatively, and the more "urban" one with Milwaukie and Lake Oswego that might be more moderate? How did those cities for example vote on transportation issues- the same as rural areas, or are they more in line with Portland?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:28 guest
12:29
Yuxing Zheng: 
I think most people in Clackamas County would say that yes, they feel like there are two Clackamas Counties, and they function like microcosms of the state's urban-rural divide.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:29 Yuxing Zheng
12:30
The Oregonian: 
Here's the Secretary of State's ORESTAR system Yuxing mentioned. https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/
Friday November 9, 2012 12:30 The Oregonian
12:30
Yuxing Zheng: 
In general, the folks in Lake Oswego and Milwaukie were more supportive of the Sellwood Bridge vehicle registration fee than rural residents. The argument from rural residents is often, "I'll never use light rail or Sellwood Bridge." The response from urban residents is often, "Well, I'll never drive across the Carver Bridge or that street in front of your house."
Friday November 9, 2012 12:30 Yuxing Zheng
12:31
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
And the counter to that argument is that if we, as a County, had not honored our prior commitment, we would have put the taxpayers at risk for a huge law suit from Tri Met and others. They had no choice, as I see it.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:31 Guest
12:31
[Comment From crawpdxcrawpdx: ] 
Ludlow and Smith ran on the slogan "stop portland creep" and won- how do you think they will deal with the increased traffic times that clackamas county commuters into portland have to deal with? Especially with the opposition to light rail.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:31 crawpdx
12:32
Yuxing Zheng: 
Ludlow and Smith have pledged to use county funds to fix county roads and bridges (as opposed to Multnomah County's Sellwood Bridge or TriMet's light rail).
Friday November 9, 2012 12:32 Yuxing Zheng
12:33
Yuxing Zheng: 
The problem is that all the main roads into Portland -- I-205, McLoughlin/99E, and Oregon 43/Macadam -- are technically state roads under the Oregon Department of Transportation's control.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:33 Yuxing Zheng
12:34
Yuxing Zheng: 
That means that it's not really up to Clackamas County to make decisions on how to better facilitate traffic on the main roads leading into Portland.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:34 Yuxing Zheng
12:34
[Comment From Concerned CitizenConcerned Citizen: ] 
Do you think Deanna Swenson will ever be arrested for tampering with ballots a serious felony or do you think authorities are going to give her a pass considering her age? If a Democrat had done the same they would have been swiftly arrested and charged.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:34 Concerned Citizen
12:36
Yuxing Zheng: 
Like I mentioned earlier, Kate Brown apparently told my colleague, Jeff Mapes, that criminal charges are expected in the next two weeks or so. So yes, I do think that she will perhaps be arrested soon.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:36 Yuxing Zheng
12:36
The Oregonian: 
Folks, we have about 10 more minutes to chat. Please don't wait to send in your comments and questions! What else do you want to ask?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:36 The Oregonian
12:36
[Comment From Concerned CitizenConcerned Citizen: ] 
Why have investigators taken so long to charge Deanna Swenson? In other cases of voter crimes during the election across the country people were arrested in a expeditious manner.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:36 Concerned Citizen
12:36
Yuxing Zheng: 
Again, it takes time to investigate a case of suspected ballot tampering because you have to isolate all the ballots the person handled, and then manually go through and review every ballot. It's a time-consuming process.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:36 Yuxing Zheng
12:37
Yuxing Zheng: 
I also want to make the distinction between ballot tampering and voter fraud, because they're two separate types of crime.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:37 Yuxing Zheng
12:37
Yuxing Zheng: 
Ballot tampering in this case concerns a temporary elections employee. I'm told from the Secretary of State's Office that there hasn't been a ballot tampering case in Oregon for at least 20 years.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:37 Yuxing Zheng
12:38
Yuxing Zheng: 
Voter fraud is more common and is committed by individual voters. It also usually takes much less time to investigate. For instance, did this signature on the envelope match signature we have on file for this voter?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:38 Yuxing Zheng
12:39
Yuxing Zheng: 
According to the SOS Office, there have been two voter fraud cases in recent years.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:39 Yuxing Zheng
12:39
[Comment From OffpisteOffpiste: ] 
Did Ludlow or Tootie ever come publicly against the tampering incident?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:39 Offpiste
12:40
Yuxing Zheng: 
I only spoke with Ludlow directly when this story first broke, and he came out strongly against ballot tampering. I would think Smith felt the same way.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:40 Yuxing Zheng
12:40
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Sorry to keep coming back to the OTP, but why would Stimson Lumber back candidates who want to stop light rail?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:40 Guest
12:41
Yuxing Zheng: 
Willamette Week had an interesting profile with Andrew Miller, the head of Stimson Lumber. He said explicitly that he doesn't care about light rail. His main issue is land use. Smith, for instance, has long advocated for logging, which is at the heart of Stimson Lumber's business.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:41 Yuxing Zheng
12:41
The Oregonian: 
Here's that Willamette Week article: http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-19841-the_king_of_clackist.html
Friday November 9, 2012 12:41 The Oregonian
12:42
Yuxing Zheng: 
Ludlow and Smith in general want to reduce regulatory restrictions businesses face, a promise that most business people would like.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:42 Yuxing Zheng
12:42
[Comment From DanDan: ] 
Julie Parrish is the one Metro area Republican House Freshman to survive being outspent in this election. Now she is a deputy leader. What kind of leadership do you expect her to take with respect to the county?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:42 Dan
12:43
Yuxing Zheng: 
To be honest, I don't think she has had a really active relationship with the county board in her first term. Of course, that could all change with her in a leadership position, and fellow Republicans in control of the county board.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:43 Yuxing Zheng
12:43
Yuxing Zheng: 
I would expect Ludlow, Smith and Savas would try to build a strong working relationship with her to advocate for various county projects or to win state funding.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:43 Yuxing Zheng
12:43
[Comment From crawpdxcrawpdx: ] 
what do you see for the future of clackamas county? left or right?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:43 crawpdx
12:44
Yuxing Zheng: 
I think we'll be in a holding pattern for the immediate future.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:44 Yuxing Zheng
12:44
Yuxing Zheng: 
The "Clackistani rebels" will want to see what they can achieve with Ludlow, Smith and Savas in the majority. I expect they'll hold off on any new initiatives or referendums for a while and try to work within the board first.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:44 Yuxing Zheng
12:45
Yuxing Zheng: 
I really can't say if the county will swing further right or return leftward in 2014. Commissioner Jim Bernard's seat will be up, and I'm not sure if he'll run for re-election. I don't think he has said yet.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:45 Yuxing Zheng
12:46
Yuxing Zheng: 
Bernard is a favorite target of many conservatives, particularly for his strong pro-rail position. I would imagine the OTP-PAC would be greatly invested in fielding a strong conservative opponent for that race.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:46 Yuxing Zheng
12:47
Yuxing Zheng: 
Savas will also be up for re-election (if he chooses to run -- again, I haven't heard anything yet), and I expect the Democrats will be out recruiting a strong candidate for that race.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:47 Yuxing Zheng
12:47
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Have you heard anything about whether or not the OTP will try to oust Paul Savas in the next election?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:47 Guest
12:48
Yuxing Zheng: 
I haven't heard anything. When I asked Rob Kremer on Wednesday afternoon why OTP-PAC didn't endorse him from the get-go, he didn't want to elaborate. He brought up Savas' position on the urban renewal vote, but then got tight-lipped and said he thought it was all "water under the bridge" at this point.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:48 Yuxing Zheng
12:49
[Comment From JosephJoseph: ] 
Is Clackamas County going to reassert their focus on suburbanization, or will they return to their roots and focus on the rural areas and take a hands-off approach to the (sub)urban areas of the county?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:49 Joseph
12:49
Yuxing Zheng: 
I don't think they'll be able to take a hands-off approach to the suburbs just given the demographics of the county.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:49 Yuxing Zheng
12:51
Yuxing Zheng: 
And unlike some other counties, Clackamas County has a huge swath of territory that is urban and unincorporated -- Oak Grove, Jennings Lodge, North Clackamas -- that the county has to provide urban services for.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:51 Yuxing Zheng
12:52
Yuxing Zheng: 
Also, Ludlow and Smith got a lot of support from folks in those neighborhoods who opposed light rail, so they won't want to alienate those residents. I think Smith, being from Mulino, will definitely advocate for rural residents and you could see more support for roads and bridges and other projects in rural areas. I will say, however, that funding for such projects often depends on state money.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:52 Yuxing Zheng
12:53
[Comment From JosephJoseph: ] 
Do the new commissioners support continued county investment in the urban unincorporated areas, at the expense of the rural areas? Or is it time for the urban areas to incorporate?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:53 Joseph
12:54
Yuxing Zheng: 
I'm not sure what Ludlow and Smith's positions are on trying to get Oak Grove to incorporate. It's been a yearslong discussion. But they are in favor of ending the Clackamas Town Center urban renewal district next year as scheduled. That area will likely be annexed by Happy Valley and/or Milwaukie.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:54 Yuxing Zheng
12:55
[Comment From guestguest: ] 
Ludlow and Smith are perceived as difficult to work with at times. Do you think their styles will lead to the perception that Clackamas County is a little whacky?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:55 guest
12:55
Yuxing Zheng: 
I don't know that their investment in the urban unincorporated areas will, however, come at the expense of rural areas.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:55 Yuxing Zheng
12:55
Yuxing Zheng: 
Ludlow and Smith definitely have unique styles, but they've also both been involved in Clackamas County-area politics before, so they're not new.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:55 Yuxing Zheng
12:56
The Oregonian: 
Here's The Oregonian Editorial Board's take on "is Clackamas County really nutty?" http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/11/is_clackamas_county_really_nut.html
Friday November 9, 2012 12:56 The Oregonian
12:57
Yuxing Zheng: 
I think the wacky/nutty/Clackistan/Clackamess perception is more the overall product of everything the county has experienced the last two years with Sellwood Bridge, urban renewal, and light rail. I wouldn't say it's any one of those things -- or Ludlow or Smith -- individually, but everything in totality.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:57 Yuxing Zheng
12:57
[Comment From guestguest: ] 
Has there been any discussion with the new board members about how they plan to interact with other area politicians on various regional boards? Will it be a complete walling off? Or do you think the realities of governing a large county will "sink in" with the Repub majority?
Friday November 9, 2012 12:57 guest
12:58
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Ludlow and Smith are beyond whacky. I think we'll see some good opportunities for new job growth disappear as people look elsewhere, not wanting to deal with the County now. Our reputation in the region will no doubt suffer even more.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:58 Guest
12:59
Yuxing Zheng: 
I asked both Ludlow and Smith on election night if they were interested in withdrawing Clackamas County from Metro or TriMet . (There's talk in some quarters about how that should be the next step in the Clackistani rebellion.)
Friday November 9, 2012 12:59 Yuxing Zheng
12:59
Yuxing Zheng: 
Both of them struck a rather conciliatory but still kind of defiant tone.
Friday November 9, 2012 12:59 Yuxing Zheng
1:00
Yuxing Zheng: 
They both felt Clackamas County had not been an equal partner at the regional table and wanted to no longer be treated like stepchildren. But neither of them were overwhelmingly thrilled with the idea of withdrawing from TriMet or Metro.
Friday November 9, 2012 1:00 Yuxing Zheng
1:01
Yuxing Zheng: 
I would suspect they'll feel things out first -- attend those regional JPACT, MPAC meetings, TriMet meetings -- and see how things go.
Friday November 9, 2012 1:01 Yuxing Zheng
1:02
Yuxing Zheng: 
What will be interesting is how they'll proceed if it gets to the point where they feel like Clackamas County is continuing to be neglected, to be treated like stepchildren. That's when we might see some interesting policy shifts on how to approach working with -- or not working with -- these agencies.
Friday November 9, 2012 1:02 Yuxing Zheng
1:02
The Oregonian: 
With that, let's wrap things up. Great questions everyone. Thanks for joining the chat. You can keep up with Yuxing's reporting on Clackamas County news and politics at www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty
Friday November 9, 2012 1:02 The Oregonian
1:03
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Thank you very much.
Friday November 9, 2012 1:03 Guest
1:03
Yuxing Zheng: 
Thanks, all, for your wonderful questions! Clackamas County is definitely full of news. Check oregonlive.com/clackamascounty often as I bring you more about the ballot tampering investigation and other news.
Friday November 9, 2012 1:03 Yuxing Zheng
 
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