Jackson County Assessor Dan Ross withstood a barrage of criticism from a feisty opponent in Tuesday's primary election to retain his job.

Jackson County Assessor Dan Ross withstood a barrage of criticism from a feisty opponent in Tuesday's primary election to retain his job.

By late Tuesday Ross held a commanding lead of nearly 59 percent of the assessor vote over challenger Roy Wright, who runs Roy Wright Appraisal Service Inc. of Medford. Wright maintained 41.34 percent of the vote at press time.

In the nonpartisan assessor's race, a candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary wins. If the vote is split and no candidate receives more than 50 percent, a runoff election is held in November.

"It's all over now," Ross said. "I seriously thought about whether I wanted to run again or not, but I really enjoy the people and the job."

Ross, who has held the position since 1989, was glad to put this particular election behind him. He claimed Wright launched a negative campaign to win the seat.

"In all of my elections this one was by far the dirtiest," Ross said. "I just don't think the people of Jackson County bought into the negativity and I commend them for that."

Wright accused Ross of poor management that led to the county's backlog of appraisals reflecting 12 to 18 years of remodels, additions and other improvements that could have generated more money for libraries, schools and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

Ross recently answered questions from an internal audit that found he treated some taxpayers differently when he forgave back taxes for 70 properties in 2007-08. The audit determined Ross was within legal rights to forgive the taxes, though it recommended expanding procedures and administrative review.

Wright admitted unseating an incumbent is a tough task and that his negative campaign might have hurt his chances.

"I know there were some people who didn't like it," Wright said. "But I could not figure out how to tell the truth without sounding negative."

Wright went on to congratulate Ross on his win, and vowed he would try different ways to get his message across to voters the next time he enters an election.

Ross said he plans to catch up on the backlog of appraisals this term, as well as refining a computer taxation program shared with eight other Oregon counties that would streamline the appraisal process.

"I haven't decided if I will run again in four years," Ross said. "I still enjoy the job, even though the decisions we make don't always make everyone happy. Who knows if this will be my last run."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.