Julia Shumway
The Bulletin

Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone has returned a $2,000 contribution from Democratic opponent Amy Lowes’ ex-husband after learning he had been convicted of domestic violence.

DeBone, a Republican running for re-election, received a $2,000 check Oct. 17 from Peter Lowes, a real-estate broker and Amy Lowes’ ex-husband. DeBone refunded the money Friday afternoon and sent The Bulletin photos of a check made out to Peter Lowes and his hand holding an envelope addressed to Lowes over a mailbox.

“I’m not endorsing a convicted abuser,” DeBone said. “There’s just nothing behind that from my point of view. It was a campaign contribution from a name that I knew was an ex-husband, but that’s all I knew.”

In July 2016, Peter Lowes was arrested on multiple charges of assault and strangulation from alleged incidents in November 2015 and June 2016. He pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree assault, and charges were dismissed after he entered Deschutes County’s deferred sentencing program for domestic violence offenders.

The program allows convicted abusers to have their charges dismissed if they plead guilty to the crime and take classes intended to dissuade them from violence. It’s designed to quickly resolve domestic violence cases, which often were dismissed because victims wouldn’t testify.

Peter Lowes described the charge he pleaded guilty to as a “minor misdemeanor,” which he equated to a shove. Assault in the fourth degree is defined as “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly (causing) physical injury.”

Amy Lowes said her ex-husband held his hand over her nose and mouth in November 2015, then tried to convince her it was an accident and he only meant to cover her mouth. In June 2016, Amy Lowes said, he put his hands around her throat and choked her. The two separated the day of the June incident, and the divorce was finalized in 2017.

Since, she said, he’s spun a different story about what happened. Peter Lowes told The Bulletin the 2016 report was related to a bike accident and his decision to dissolve a prenuptial agreement.

“The truth is that wealthy white men do not plead guilty to crimes they do not commit,” she said.

Lowes said the campaign contribution, which she learned about Wednesday evening, was a sign Peter Lowes was unable to let go of his power over her.

“It just shines light on the fact that a controlling abuser has a difficult time letting go of his position of power,” she said. “It’s personal. It was not a political move.”

Peter Lowes has not made any other political contributions in Oregon, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office. He said he did not know DeBone and supported his campaign only because he thought Amy Lowes was unfit to be a county commissioner.

DeBone, likewise, said he didn’t know Peter Lowes at all. He said the check came in to the campaign’s post office box, where it was picked up by his wife and given to the campaign’s treasurer. No note was included, he said.

DeBone said he knew Peter Lowes was his opponent’s ex-husband and thought that was interesting, but didn’t do any research on him. He said he was surprised to learn that Peter Lowes was a co-owner of the Tokyo Starfish marijuana dispensaries, but that wouldn’t have stopped him from accepting the donation.

“If it was really interesting and looked like it was controversial, we would evaluate it,” DeBone said.

Amy Lowes said she couldn’t believe that DeBone didn’t know about her ex-husband’s past conviction. She said the DeBone campaign has spent thousands on opposition research — campaign finance records list a nearly $4,000 payment to a Missouri firm for opposition research — and is running an ad about her failure to vote in previous elections.

“If he took the time to go in and look at my voting record, he probably knows who I’ve been married to and whether they’ve been convicted of any crimes,” she said.

Lowes said she wanted to urge other Central Oregon women who experience partner violence to call Saving Grace, a nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, at 541-389-7021.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com