Several Republican leaders and Republican-leaning groups are choosing to support a Democrat or keep their mouths shut and pocketbooks closed in a hotly contested Deschutes County Commission race between a moderate Democrat and the chairwoman of the county GOP.
James Cook, a web developer and chairman of Redmond’s planning commission, has been endorsed by outgoing county Commissioner Tammy Baney, who lost to Patti Adair in the Republican primary. Baney’s campaign committee and the political action committee of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors donated to Cook’s campaign.
Other historically Republican-leaning groups including the Bend Chamber of Commerce and local Republican leaders including House Minority Leader Mike McLane and state Sen. Tim Knopp have stayed out of the Adair-Cook race, though they’ve endorsed Republican Commission Chairman Tony DeBone in his re-election campaign and supported Baney in her primary.
By challenging a popular incumbent and inviting controversial speakers — including a former FBI agent who travels the country talking about a “jihadi threat” and the head of an anti-immigration group behind a ballot measure to overturn Oregon’s sanctuary law — Adair has shown she’s too extreme for Deschutes County, which tends to support moderates, Cook said. He also described her as “divisive” at debates this week.
“She’s basically building bad blood within the party,” he said. “I think there are a lot of traditional Oregon Republicans who feel uncomfortable with the direction the party is going.”
The Realtors association’s committee, which typically contributes to Republican candidates, gave Cook’s campaign $10,000 in cash and contributed $1,000 of analysis of Independent and nonaffiliated voters, according to campaign finance records filed with the Oregon Secretary of State.
The association’s political action committee donates to candidates, but it doesn’t endorse them, spokeswoman Kim Gammond said. While the group has supported Democrats in the past — it donated to former county Commissioner Alan Unger in his race against Commissioner Phil Henderson and city Councilor Sally Russell in her 2016 re-election campaign — it typically contributes to Republicans.
“It has traditionally fallen that way, but by no means is there any preference by that,” Gammond said. “We are completely open to both parties.”
The committee interviews all candidates and supports candidates who seem willing to work with the association, understand private property rights and understand the county’s role, Gammond said. It gets involved in most Bend City Council and Deschutes County Commission races, but it will likely stay out of the mayor’s race because it has supported Russell and city Councilor Bill Moseley in the past, she said.
Adair said she wasn’t concerned that the Realtors association didn’t support her.
“Commissioner Henderson was not endorsed in 2016, and he’s turned out to be a good commissioner,” she said.
She also disagreed with Cook’s characterization of her as a divisive force, pointing to her past experience raising money for charities.
“You can’t raise money in charity if you’re a divider,” she said. “Everyone needs to work together on the same side, and I don’t feel like I’m a divider. I really feel like I’m a uniter.”
Adair lists endorsements from U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, state Rep. Gene Whisnant, Redmond Mayor George Endicott, Henderson and former Oregon Speaker of the House Bev Clarno. Moseley and Pine Tavern owner Bill McCormick, who was U.S. ambassador to New Zealand during the George W. Bush administration and is the father of current Bend City Council candidate Sarah McCormick, also endorsed Adair.
Other high-profile Republicans including gubernatorial candidate and Bend state Rep. Knute Buehler, McLane and Knopp haven’t endorsed Adair. McLane and Knopp have endorsed DeBone, and all three donated to Baney’s primary campaign.
The Oregon Reagan PAC, a conservative committee controlled by Knopp, contributed $500 to Adair’s campaign in June. It’s her only reported campaign contribution from a political action committee.
The Central Oregon Small Business PAC, a housing-industry committee controlled by Knopp and Bend-La Pine School Board member Andy High, gave to Baney and DeBone during the primary but hasn’t yet made any general election contributions to commission candidates. Dana Billinglsey, the committee’s treasurer, did not return a phone call Tuesday or Wednesday, and Knopp did not return a phone call or email Wednesday afternoon.
The Bend Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee endorsed candidates in the mayoral race, City Council races and the DeBone-Lowes race, but not the Adair-Cook race.
Troy Reinhart, the committee chairman, said its endorsement depended on candidate stances on issues including taxation, water rights and attracting businesses to the Bend area, as well as how well the Chamber thought it could communicate with those candidates.
“We chose not to endorse because we didn’t see a clear-cut difference,” Reinhart said.
Reinhart said he wouldn’t characterize the chamber’s committee as a Republican-leaning organization, and it has endorsed Democrats running for nonpartisan City Council seats. But a review of donations given by the Bend Chamber Political Action Committee and its predecessor, the Bend Business Political Action Committee, shows that it gave nearly 10 times as much to Republican candidates than it gave to Democrats between 2010 and 2016. Democrats including Russell received a combined $5,700 from the committee, while Republican candidates received $52,900.
The chamber’s committee hasn’t yet reported any 2018 campaign contributions, but the four endorsed candidates — Moseley, DeBone and City Council candidates Sarah McCormick and Andrew Davis — are all Republicans.
Moseley said he chose to endorse Adair because of her passion for community causes and because she would work well with Henderson, who is not up for election this year. He said he’s not involved in the local Republican Party but supports Republican candidates in the general election.
The county’s Republican Party does seem to be divided when it comes to their views on national politics, he said, but at the local level, differences have more to do with personalities than policies.
“There are certain members within the party that believe that they’re able to get further by compromising with people in the community, and there are others that don’t believe they’ll get the policy changes they seek by being compromisers,” Moseley said. “If there is a split, there’s more about the way they go about doing things, not policy.”
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