Strosser, Thomas for county commissioner
Incumbent county commissioners rarely face a primary challenge, but this is not an ordinary election. The race for Jackson County commissioner Position 2 is more interesting than usual because incumbent Doug Breidenthal is facing criticism for his extensive travel and an ethics investigation regarding his campaign for a leadership position in a national counties organization. As a result, he's drawn two challengers in the Republican primary as well as a Democrat who will face the winner of the three-way GOP race.
The Oregon Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation into a fundraising account Breidenthal set up to run for office in the Western Interstate Region, an affiliate of the National Association of Counties. A separate probe by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission has been put on hold until the Justice Department investigation is complete. Regardless of the outcome of either inquiry, Breidenthal seems more interested in promoting himself on the national stage than in serving the citizens of Jackson County. He spent $73,000 on travel expenses in three years on the job, a considerable portion of that taxpayers' money, and missed more than 30 meetings in 2015.
Breidenthal argues his travel has returned benefits to Jackson County, but offers few specifics.
Two candidates are challenging Breidenthal for the Reublican nomination. Bob Strosser, a retired police officer, real estate agent and former Medford city councilor, is a civic-minded public servant with a solid background. We found him to be a straight-shooter in his role on the council — including four stints as council president — and an advocate for openness in government. He has the support of many local Republican leaders, including former commissioners John Rachor and Don Skundrick, as well as state Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, and his wife, Jan, a former president of the Jackson County Republican Women.
The other Republican contender, building contractor Gordon Challstrom, has no elective experience and a tenuous grasp on the complexities of county government. An advocate of increasing timber harvests, Challstrom says the Ashland Forest Resiliency thinning project should be expanded to other areas of the county, but that project is heavily subsidized and does not generate large quantities of merchantable timber.
On the Democratic side of the ballot, Jeff Thomas, owner of the Connecting Point computer store in Medford and chairman of the Medford School Board, is a dedicated public servant with a record of community service. He is unopposed for his party's nomination.
Republican voters should nominate Strosser; either he or Thomas would be an improvement over Breidenthal.