By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
May 20, 2006
A historical event occurred on Tuesday when a write-in candidate captured the seat of Hood River County Commission Chair in a primary election.
In unofficial results, Parkdale orchardist Ron Rivers netted 60.88 percent of the vote. He needed 50 percent plus one of all votes cast to have his name singly listed on the November ballot.
Rivers is still cautious about claiming victory until the election has been certified on June 5. However, he is aware the numbers are unlikely to change, so he provided his thoughts on the outcome of the controversial race.
“This election was both humbling and honoring at the same time,” said Rivers. “For the citizens to step forward and deliver a message about integrity and trust in this way was totally remarkable.”
He contends the ballots reflected voter opinion about the “11th hour switcheroo” performed by his opponent Maui Meyer and former chair Rodger Schock.
On March 7, Shock and Meyer, who currently serves as the District 2 County Commissioner, arrived in the elections office 45 minutes before the filing deadline.
Schock then withdrew from seeking a third term in the at-large role. And Meyer immediately signed up as the sole candidate for the job.
When Rivers, 62, learned what had transpired, he decided it was time to act. He knew of one individual who had expressed interest to both Schock and Meyer about the office. But that potential candidate had not wanted to challenge an incumbent who he believed was doing good work.
Rivers, himself, had been advised by business associates weeks earlier not to undertake an arduous campaign against Schock. He had resolved to make a bid for the position when the current chair stepped down.
However, Rivers decided to take on the equally difficult task of waging a write-in campaign after learning what Meyer and Schock had done. He said it was heartening to have scores of volunteers willing to back his effort, both on the ground and with financial support.
“None of this would have happened if these guys had been above board,” said Rivers.
Both Schock and Meyer declined to comment about whether the election results were tied to the filing controversy.
Sandra Berry, county elections director, cannot find any race in recent history where a write-in candidate won a local primary — or even a general election.
“I can’t remember this happening before,” she said.
Nancy Ferry from the state Secretary of State’s Office, Elections Division, gave a similar comment.
“Nobody here is aware of a write-in winning any kind of a state race on a primary ballot,” she said.
Berry credits the contested race for bringing out 47 percent of the county’s 10,881 voters. Thirty-eight percent of voters statewide marked ballots in the May 16 election.
“I’m pleased with this turnout; it was a little lower than I expected but the same as in 2002,” she said.
In the local runoff for chair, Meyer took second place with 30.1 percent of the vote. The third challenger, Paul Nevin, netted 8.85 percent.
Within two weeks of River’s announcing his candidacy, Schock resigned. He apologized to citizens for causing an “absolute breakdown in trust.”
“I think we all know there was nothing done illegally; we followed the rules. But there was an appearance of impropriety,” he said on his last evening in office.
In March, Meyer explained that he had filed after Schock repeatedly asked him to fill the gap. He said no harm was intended by his action and he would not campaign in the primary so that Rivers had the maximum opportunity to get his name before voters.
Meyer has two years remaining in his current four-year term. He represents constituents in the district that largely encompasses the City of Hood River.
Shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Meyer wrote the following concession statement, “To be part of this community and work on local issues is a great privilege, and one of my passions. I’m excited to continue my role as District 2 Commissioner and look forward to working with Ron as county chair.
“I have kept my word to ‘stand still’ during the primary, and with tonight’s election, my duty to former Chairman Schock has now been completed.”
Rivers said he will have no difficulty working with Meyer, starting on Jan. 1, 2007.
“I don’t have any personal problems with Mr. Meyer. He’s a gentleman, a fine family man and a good businessman.”
For the remainder of the year, Rivers plans to observe county board meetings and get up to speed on key issues. He has no specific political agenda except to work hard on behalf of his constituents.
“I’m open and I’m transparent. You will get my honest opinion on all issues and I’m not going to shut anybody out,” he pledged.
How the County Voted
Please click on:
Hood River County Primary vote totals for May 16 Primary Election figures.