Maybe it's a sign of the times. Maybe it's simply a matter of a newfound interest in city government.

But whatever the reason, the result is a mayoral campaign in Hermiston that longtime residents tell me is like no other in recent memory.

If you haven't noticed the signs around town for Dave Drotzmann and John Kirwan … well, you've had your eyes closed.

And, while the third candidate in the race, Larry Storment, isn't as visible in that department, we're still hearing from some of his supporters who insist he's a viable choice.

But maybe the most telling sign that times are changing in Hermiston is the money involved.

According to the secretary of state's website, one candidate —  Drotzmann — has already received more than $3,000 in contributions, with his total campaign finance activity surpassing $4,600.

That's well ahead of not only the other candidates in the race, but more than any other Hermiston mayoral candidate has reported in recent history. The only time a candidate in the last 10 years came close was Bob Severson's re-election campaign in 2008, and the only contributor of any significance that year was Severson, who contributed $1,800 to his own cause.

That's not the case this year. Rather, Drotzmann is attracting donations from a variety of folks around town, including city councilman George Anderson, who has contributed $1,000 to Drotzmann's campaign.

The other candidates haven't reported any financial transactions to the secretary of state (Kirwan has announced that he is not accepting campaign donations). Candidates also aren't required to make transactions public if the totals don't exceed $3,000.

Still, there's no doubt the parties involved are serious about their goals, and that can only be good for the city and its residents.

Speaking of the mayoral campaigns, the candidates will be making at least two public appearances together in April.

The first will come on Monday, April 2, when the three will speak at a forum hosted by the Greater Hermiston Tea Party at the Stafford Hansell Government Center. That event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

The second will be the April 19 debates at Hermiston High School, sponsored by the Herald, KOHU radio and the East Oregonian. Candidates for county commissioner, state senate and Hermiston mayor have all agreed to take part.

That event is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

As far as the other campaigns, the race for Senate District 29 has the looks of an expensive one. As of Wednesday, the two candidates in the Republican primary had reported more than $35,000 in donations, loans and cash expenditures.

According to figures from the secretary of state, Pendleton businesswoman Maryl Featherstone had reported more than $41,000 for her campaign, with the biggest chunk coming via a $25,000 loan she made to herself.

Featherstone also received a $5,000 donation from the Oregon Beverage Political Action Committee, a $2,500 donation from Graybeal Distributing (she owns the company), $2,000 from RIP LLC of Pendleton (in-kind for two months of office space) and $1,000 each from Byrnes Oil Company and Pac-West Communications.

Hansell, meanwhile, had reported more than $35,000. His list of major donors includes $2,500 from the Friends of Ted Ferrioli (Senate Republican leader from John Day) and $2,500 from the Friends of Dave Nelson (Hansell is running for the seat currently held by Nelson).

Hansell has also received $2,000 from Lloyd Powell, listed only as an "individual" from Harbor, Wash.; a $1,585 cash expenditure from the Pendleton Foundation Trust; and $1,000 from Robert G. Helvey, listed as the religious institutions manager for the Campus Crusade for Christ.

In the race for county sheriff, Alan Humphrey has reported more than $13,500 in transactions. That includes a $4,000 donation from Alan Humphrey Jr., $2,000 from Larry Anderson and $1,000 each from Koehler Auto Repair and Jim Humphrey.

Undersheriff Terry Rowan, meanwhile, had reported more than $9,600, with his biggest contributor being himself, with loans totaling $2,100. Other large contributions were $1,200 from the Buck Brogoitti Institute and $1,000 from Ross Brandt Electric.

The third candidate in the race, Robert Cannon, has no financial transactions reported.

So what does it all mean?

It means the candidates in our area are taking their races seriously, and the hope here is that you will do the same by taking the time to study the issues and vote.

It's your government. The decisions they make will have direct impact on your lives — and you can have a say in who's making those decisions. It's an opportunity we should embrace.

Know of something we need to be reporting? A piece of news you’d like to see in the Herald? Drop me a note at nwoelk@hermistonherald.com or call me at 541-564-4533.

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