The Hood River County Commission will have a new chairman at the head of the table next January, with Rodger Schock ousting incumbent John Arens by a 12 percent margin in Tuesday’s primary.
Schock, who was also elected as the Democratic Committeeman for Precinct 8, garnered 51.1 percent of the 4,930 votes cast for that race, with Arens netting 39.3 percent.
Conversely, incumbent Commissioner Carol York retained her District 1 seat by a 36 percent lead against challenger Ladd Henderson. York captured 63.6 percent of the 1,628 votes, up significantly from Henderson’s 27.6 percent.
Schock admitted that he was “amazed” by the election results, especially since he had run a “stealth campaign” and refused to post yard signs or accept campaign contributions.
“I thought I had a chance but I don’t have a clue about why I won by a margin like that and I really don’t think you can put your finger on any one thing,” said Schock. “You look for reasons in a deal like this and you could come up with 20 or more but I hope it’s because I said exactly what I would do and where I would focus.”
Please turn to page A5 for complete county voting results.
Arens acknowledges that the well-publicized problems between the Mid-Columbia Council of Governments, which he heads, and Hood River senior citizens may have contributed to his defeat.
“I’m sure the bad press for the past couple of years has caused some concern,” said Arens. “Timing is pretty critical on issues like that and, unfortunately, it takes government longer to work through things than it does in the private sector so it’s hard to tell what effect that had.”
York was out of town this week and unable to be reached for comment about her victory but Henderson said he believed his low-key campaign worked exactly as he intended to get a discussion going of what he believes are serious flaws in the local political processes.
“I simply ran because I thought there were issues that need to be discussed and we discussed them and I am happy,” said Henderson, who also refused to accept campaign contributions or advertise his candidacy.
Henderson said he knew his moral opposition to a casino anywhere in Hood River County would cost him the votes of Cascade Locks residents, who are lobbying to have the gambling center sited in their community. However, he believes the county has brought a “dilemma” upon itself by spending money to fight the facility in one location but supporting it in another.
“Have we not lost the moral high ground?” asked Henderson, who plans to stay involved in the looming casino battle, hearings over the Wal-Mart super center application, and probable destination resort planning.
After 20 years of friendship, Henderson is confident that Schock will not resort to the “backroom” politics that he believes has guided several key commission actions in the past year.
Because they were running in non-partisan races, both York and Schock will have their names listed singly on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
As he spends the next seven months getting briefed on county issues, Schock said he has vowed to always deal with his constituents “straight up” and help them understand the legal and procedural regulations that guide much of the local decision-making processes.
“I think everything should be above board and out on the table,” said Schock, who plans to focus his energies on creating more economic development opportunities.
He also refutes statements by some dissenters that because he has voiced strong opposition against a Mt. Hood Meadows destination resort he will not be fair and impartial during a review of that application.
“I know the difference between the personal bias we’re all allowed and I know what the law requires and I’m going to take an Oath of Office that will hold me to that law,” Schock said.