The 2020 elections may be months away, but the county filing period for candidates opened on Sept. 12.
So far, only one person has filed for candidacy: Dan Dorran of Hermiston filed for Umatilla County commissioner position three.
Kim Lindell, Umatilla County elections manager, said that the 2020 elections in the county are on the back burner as her office gears up for the special election that is happening on Nov.5.
“I don’t want to have a discussion that is louder than the November elections,” said Dorran, who is involved with two charter measures that are on the upcoming ballot.
Voters in November will also have the chance to weigh in on several other matters, including the Hermiston School District bond measure and the formation of the Milton-Freewater ambulance district.
Open positions in the county for the May 2020 primaries include county commissioner position No. 3, Umatilla County district attorney, and Umatilla County sheriff.
Lindell said others have called to inquire about the commissioner position.
For Dorran, who has previously served on several local boards including the Umatilla County Fair Board, the position would be an opportunity to provide a strong voice from Umatilla County on matters ranging in scope from local scope to statewide.
He said that he hasn’t begun work on his official campaign yet.
“I think there are things we take for granted in Umatilla County. We are a logistical and distribution hub,” Dorran said. “Umatilla County is sitting on a good spot compared to a lot of other rural counties.”
Dorran said that people had expressed an interest in him filing for candidacy as early as the last county commissioner election.
“I feel extremely humbled that people asked me to consider running. It’s something that I’m passionate about and look forward to,” he said.
Lindell said Umatilla County voters should keep an eye on the county website for updates on both the November 2019 election and the May 2020 primaries.
During the May 2018 primary elections, only 13,310 ballots were cast from a pool of 42,511 registered voters in Umatilla County. The numbers improved to over half of the registered voters later that year during the November elections.
“We like to keep voters apprised and active in voting,” she said. “Voting sort of falls off of people’s radar in Umatilla County.”
In Morrow County, only one open position for the 2020 elections has two contenders so far.
According to Morrow County Clerk Bobbi Childers, current Morrow County Sheriff Kenneth Matlack has filed to run for his position again. Another candidate, Boardman Police Department Sgt. Mark Pratt, has announced his bid for the position but hasn’t yet registered with the county.
Pratt said he used to work for the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office, and that as sheriff, he would hope to enhance the office’s partnership with other stakeholders.
“I would like to make sure that the victims of crimes are constantly kept in touch with by the deputy authorities,” Pratt said.
He mentioned he’d be interested in adjusting the different roles and responsibilities at the sheriff’s office.
Matlack, who is currently at a conference regarding border security and immigration in Washington, D.C., was not available to comment before deadline.
Both candidates have published campaign websites and Facebook pages regarding their candidacy.
Matlack’s website brought to attention the 2017 restructure of the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office’s command staff as a recent success in his career.
“Our restructure for patrol, as well as for our communications and civil staff, has now allowed for promotional opportunities for advancement which will allow for better retention of our employees,” Matlack stated on the site.
Matlack was elected to the position in 2004. His Facebook campaign page states he wants to prioritize financial responsibility and the continuation of 24-hour coverage.
The other open positions for the upcoming Morrow County elections include Position 1 on the board of county commissioners, which is currently held by Jim Doherty; treasurer, which is held by Gayle L. Gutierrez; and the county clerk position. Childers said she filed for the clerk position.
Childers said that Gutierrez and Matlack were the only other two people to file for candidacy with the county so far.
The deadline to file for the May 2020 primaries is March 10, 2020. If only two people are filed for a position, their election will go straight to the November 2020 ballot.
“I just do it so I can get it out of the way,” said Childers. “But some people wait until the filing deadline.”
Childers said that recent changes in Oregon voter registration laws has meant an expanded pool of registered voters, but that she’s seen lower turnout in recent years.
“I think that 2020 will be bigger because there’s so much information on the news. I already have people asking how I’m getting the word out,” she said.
She also noted that some people have reached out to her office believing that the 2020 elections — which will also see the election of state legislators, U.S representatives and senators, as well as the president — are actually happening this year.
Candidate filing sheets can be found on both counties’ websites.