The race for Jackson County commissioner pits a moderate Democrat, Jeff Scroggin, against a conservative Republican, Doug Breidenthal. The campaign took an interesting turn last week when Commissioner Don Skundrick, a Republican, endorsed Scroggin over Breidenthal. After interviewing both candidates, as Skundrick did, we reached the same conclusion: Scroggin would be a better fit on the Board of Commissioners.
A third candidate, Troy Hackett, the nominee of the Independent Party, appears on the ballot but is nearly invisible on the campaign trail.
The candidates are vying to replace retiring Commissioner C.W. Smith. Smith is remaining neutral on the race, as is Commissioner John Rachor.
Scroggin, 31, is a U.S. Army Signal Corps veteran who served in Korea, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. He attended the University of Oregon on the G.I. Bill and works as chief of staff for state Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford.
Breidenthal, 42, is an operations chief with the Kingsley Field Fire Department in Klamath Falls and chairman of the board of Madrone Trail charter school. He also is a former chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party.
It's not Breidenthal's role in the Republican Party that gives us pause, it's the tea party rhetoric he slips into with ease — especially when it comes to land use.
Breidenthal is a vocal fan of efforts in Arizona, where officials in one county simply declared their intention to take control of federal land. Breidenthal suggests that such a step would allow increased timber thinning projects, reducing wildfire danger, boosting employment and filling county coffers.
Such work already is under way in several places in Southern Oregon without any heavy-handed assertion of "sovereignty" by county officials.
Breidenthal also neglects to mention that a bill that passed the Arizona Legislature demanding that the federal government surrender title to federal land across the state was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer — no fan of federal authority — because the state simply could not afford to manage millions of acres of land.
Meanwhile, back in Oregon, Scroggin says a collaborative effort involving federal land managers and environmental groups is a better approach. We agree.
Scroggin says he would prefer that the office of county commissioner be nonpartisan, as it is in several Oregon counties. He says Rachor agrees with him and would support such a move.
Scroggin emphasizes jobs and economic development in his campaign, stressing support for local businesses and investment of public dollars to help businesses thrive, such as the grant money to restore the rail line over the Siskiyous.
Scroggin is bright, energetic, articulate and results-oriented. We recommend him for Jackson County commissioner, Position 2.