Wasco County voters elected Matthew Ellis as their new District Attorney, retained county commissioner Steve Kramer and approved a revised charter for the City of The Dalles in the May 19 primary election.
“The voters of Wasco County clearly mandated that they wanted a change in their district attorney’s office,” said Matthew Ellis, a criminal defense lawyer who unseated former District Attorney Eric Nisley by a 72 percent margin, with 5,679 votes to Nisley’s 2,115.
“I am grateful and humbled by the strong support I received throughout the campaign,” Ellis said. “I look forward to working with local agencies to direct our resources on prosecuting dangerous criminals, providing victim services and creating specialty court programs focusing on at-risk youth, mental health, and addiction.”
Nisley, first appointed to the seat in 1998 by Gov. John Kitzhaber, faced a cloud of controversy as he sought re-election for a sixth term. This was the first time he faced an opponent.
Nisley, who has now served as Wasco County District Attorney for 25 years, said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside the dedicated people in the district Attorney’s Office.”
Nisley also praised the law enforcement community he has worked with in The Dalles and Wasco County. “I consider myself very fortunate to work and learn from them,” he said. “I also thank the voters and the people for the opportunity to serve them for the past 25 years.”
It is unclear when Ellis will take on the duties of District Attorney.
Nisley had his law license suspended for 60 days earlier this year for lying to state bar investigators about an investigation he pursued into a loan made by a county finance director. When Nisley’s suspension took effect Feb. 10, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum removed him from his elected office, cut off his pay and didn’t allow him to return to office unless re-elected, according to reports in The Oregonian/Oregon Live. An attorney from the State Department of Justice has been running the office since that day. Nisley is contesting his removal from office, the report stated.
Incumbent Wasco County Commissioner Steve Kramer defeated challenger Marcus Swift, 4,043 votes 3,671.
Kramer expressed appreciation for the support he received. “Campaigning is a team effort and in this case, a team win,” he said. “The outcome of the election has reinforced my conviction to make us one county, working together, in order to have Wasco County be the best county in the state.
“What I learned is that we, all of us, need to come to the table and have conversations to work towards solutions to the needs” that are out there, he said.
In addition to maintaining the core programs of the county, Kramer said he wants to “get through COVID, get us back to work and our economy restarted, and continue to encourage conversation.”
Swift also expressed his appreciation for those who supported his campaign.
“We are extremely proud of the campaign we built and ran,” he said. “Hundreds of supporters, contributors and volunteers across Wasco County built a massive local, grassroots, nonpartisan campaign. The 3,671 votes we received would have been enough to easily win the County Commission race in any of the May primary elections in the last decade.”
He said that “nearly half of voters in Wasco County made it clear that they are ready for new ideas and new leadership in our community. They want a more transparent and accessible government that puts personal conflicts aside, gives citizens a stronger voice in the process, and works to tackle the high cost of housing, get our economy back on track, keep our communities safe and healthy, and honor and respect our seniors and veterans. The status quo isn’t working for our families.”
Ellis said he looks forward to returning to his law practice full-time, but will continue to stay engaged in issues, and ensuring elected officials are held accountable at all levels.
“I’m not going anywhere and neither are the thousands of Wasco County residents who want to see positive change in our community by honoring our past while embracing our future and moving our community forward in a way that works for all Wasco County residents.”
The Dalles City Charter
A revised city charter for the City of The Dalles passed with 2,640 yes votes, or 65.2 percent, to 1,409 no.
The Dalles Mayor Rich Mays said he was pleased the revised charter received voter support, even though no campaign was undertaken to support the changes. He noted most of the changes were minor. The biggest revisions included changing the election of all city council seats to “at large” positions with staggered terms, rather than by districts, and increasing the mayor’s term from two to three years. Mays emphasized, however, that the change in the mayor’s term would not take place until after the position is filled, for two years, in the November election. “After that, it will become a three-year term,” he said.
The revised charter also allows for councilors and the mayor, who serve as volunteers, to be compensated for expenses incurred while doing city business.