Deschutes County commissioner race heats up

Two candidates raising thousands in donations, preparing for May primary

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich


Published Mar 15, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Mar 16, 2014 at 04:28PM

Candidates for Deschutes County commissioner are raising funds and kicking into campaign mode with primary elections two months away.

And although no one would mistake the county races for a multimillion-dollar U.S. Senate campaign, two potential opponents have already raised a few thousand dollars each, and figure to raise thousands more.

Two of the three commissioners — Tammy Baney and Tony DeBone — are up for re-election this year. No one challenged Baney before Tuesday’s filing deadline, so she’ll run for a third term unopposed.

But DeBone’s seat is a different story. He faces a primary challenge from Sisters resident and fellow Republican Richard Esterman.

The winner of that race will take on Bend City Councilor Jodie Barram, a Democrat, in November. The primary election is May 20 and the general election is Nov. 4.

Even in its early days, the campaign for DeBone’s seat has brought out polar opposite fundraising strategies, and highlighted each candidate’s influence in different parts of the county.

Barram said this week she anticipates having to raise at least $40,000 by the general election.

Esterman, meanwhile, doesn’t plan to raise a dime. He said fundraising goes against his political philosophy.

“I don’t want to feel like I owe anybody,” Esterman said Thursday.

DeBone, of La Pine, filed for re-election in December. He’s raised $5,020 since then and spent $3,983, according to campaign finance records on file with the state. He said some of the money he’s been raising will pay off $10,000 he still owes from his first campaign in 2010.

Barram has raised $4,672 since entering the commissioner race in November, and spent $2,848, state records show.

DeBone and Barram are dipping into their own pocketbooks as well. DeBone has put $2,670 from himself and family members into his campaign, while Barram has pitched in $1,100 from herself and family.

Their other contributions seem to show Barram’s connections in the city of Bend, and DeBone’s influence in the south part of Deschutes County.

Barram’s list of donors includes $200 from Bend Mayor Jim Clinton, $500 from city Councilor Doug Knight, $250 from city Councilor Sally Russell and $500 from Visit Bend CEO Doug La Placa, state figures show. Chuck Arnold, Downtown Bend Business Association’s executive director, is running Barram’s campaign.

“We’ve done our research,” Barram said Thursday. “In county commission races, you typically have to raise around $40,000. That’s our goal, though I’ll probably hit $50,000.”

DeBone has relied largely on donations from La Pine community members and business owners as far south as Crescent, according to his campaign filings. Both Barram and DeBone have received a series of small donations of less than $100, which don’t require the donor’s name to be released.

“I’m basically starting with the hometown crowd in La Pine,” DeBone said Thursday. “I’m really confident in what I’ve done as a county commissioner. We’re going to make sure people have a message to listen to as far as what I’ve done.”

All three candidates said they’ve spoken at small events across the county.

DeBone and Esterman spoke at a recent forum hosted by the Redmond Patriots, and will meet again at a Deschutes County Republican Party forum Tuesday.

Esterman said he’s been reaching out to community members in Sisters and La Pine, attending meetings and getting a firmer grasp of the issues there. He ran an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010, and said this week the governor’s race gave him experience to run a county-level campaign.

DeBone said he anticipates raising more money for radio ads and yard signs as the campaign heats up.

With extra time before she faces a challenger, Barram, a Redmond native, said she’s working on building up name recognition outside of Bend.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s note: This story has been clarified. In the original story, the Redmond Patriots were mischaracterized.