Portland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 23, 2024
Former Sheriff Craig Roberts Takes Lead Over Incumbent Tootie Smith in Clackamas County Chair RaceSource: Unsplash/ Cyrus Crossan

In Clackamas County, political tides are showing signs of shifting as former Sheriff Craig Roberts takes a commanding lead over incumbent Tootie Smith in the race for County Chair. With votes still being tallied, Roberts is ahead by over 6,000 votes, as reported by KOIN 6. The outcome could signal a change in the county government's direction, as it faces critical issues ranging from a costly courthouse construction to the ongoing housing crisis.

While Smith is known for her direct approach and willingness to stir up controversy, Roberts has presented himself as a collaborative public servant eager to actively listen to constituents. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, his mild-mannered style contrasts sharply with Smith's more combative demeanor. The county's diverse makeup has historically produced a mix of conservative and moderate representatives, making the chair's role a potentially powerful one in shaping policy and regional politics.

Both candidates bring entrenched experience to the table, with Smith holding her position since 2020 and previously serving as a County Commissioner. Roberts, on the other hand, has a law enforcement background that he leverages when talking about resource allocation and program efficacy. As Smith boasts of her team's approach to addressing local challenges like homelessness, she remains proud of what she calls "the Clackamas Way," as told to KGW. This method, according to Smith, is proving successful with the dedicated staff at hand.

However, Roberts has openly criticized the current administration for its fiscal decisions, particularly the investment in a new courthouse project projected to cost roughly $300 million. He points towards the need to prioritize substance over structure, stressing the importance of programs that truly make a difference in the community. "Right now what's happening is there is a lot of money for drug and alcohol treatment and a lot of services," Roberts explained to KGW. "But what is happening so often is they're throwing money at 'But let's get this building.' It's the program that runs the building that makes the difference. It's not the building."

The position of County Chair carries not only significant local influence but also a sizable paycheck, with the current salary pegged at $127,587 annually. As the night progresses, and more votes are counted, the residents of Clackamas County are waiting to see whether Smith's "Clackamas Way" will continue or if Roberts' vision for a more program-focused approach will take the helm.