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Local editorials

Finally, we have some candidates New filings just before the deadline will give local voters a choice

In the wake of an Associated Press story reporting that nearly half of the Oregon Legislature seats up for election were uncontested only days before the filing deadline, it was encouraging to see most of the races filling up both locally and statewide. Now the goal for next time is to have choices in every race.

We may not be crazy about all the candidates, but three of the five local legislative seats will be contested, along with both Jackson County commissioners' positions, the county sheriff's post and the 2nd District congressional seat.

And, of course, voters will have a wide variety of choices in the gubernatorial race, with six ' and perhaps seven ' candidates in the running. In the state Senate, all the seats up for election will be contested. In the House, 50 of the 60 seats will have at least two candidates.

All the candidates should be congratulated for stepping up to take on what could be tough campaigns, and even tougher jobs for the winners. A few short days ago, we were prepared to write an editorial bemoaning the lack of opposition, so it's only right to give credit where credit is due ' and that's to the candidates.

Now some of them likely would not be good office-holders, and some have already proven that they are not good office-holders. But even if they're outmatched in the campaign, they provide a public service by forcing their opponents to defend their positions and debate the issues.

It's unfortunate, but understandable to a degree, that two of the uncontested House seats are local. Rep. George Gilman is a Medford Republican in a conservative district that includes parts of five counties. It's a tough district to drive, let alone represent.

— Rep. Peter Buckley is a Democrat in liberal Ashland, which may explain the lack of an opponent. But Democrat Mike Moran stepped up to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Sal Esquivel in a Medford-based district that has a heavy lean to the GOP, so it's too bad that a politically active community like Ashland couldn't muster anyone willing to at least put up a fight.

But, all in all, prospects for the electoral process playing out as it should have brightened considerably. Regardless of who wins, voters will come out ahead because of it.

New trees welcome If you get a knot in your stomach when driving on Foothill Road in Medford and see old pear orchards that look like gruesome cemeteries with huge stumps and root masses lying on the ground, take heart.

New pear trees are being planted elsewhere in the valley. The continual dance between urban expansion and productive farm land requires some fast stepping, but Naumes Inc., once the largest independent apple and pear grower in the U.S., is still keeping up.

Faced with worldwide competition from Asia and South America, Naumes looked ready to back away from the orchard business a few short years ago. But times have changed and Naumes is now planting pear trees on a 60-acre site off South Stage Road and elsewhere in the valley.

Company President Mike Naumes says competitive conditions and consumer interest in pears have improved. The company also has changed its mix of fruit to keep a steady supply moving through its fruit-packing house. Keys to success include producing crops in affordable orchards and choosing varieties that sell well but are not priced out of the market by other countries.

Some of the familiar orchards on Foothill have gone down in the face of progress, but there's hope we'll be able to continue to enjoy living in a valley where agriculture and tradition can survive and thrive.