When Sherman County Commissioner Mike Smith narrowly lost the Republican primary last May to challenger Joe Dabulskis, plenty of people asked him to run a write-in campaign.
He wasn’t interested at the time, but has decided to throw his hat in the ring after all.
“I thought, well, that’s the way it is when it happened, but so many people came up to me saying, ‘You’ve got to do a write-in,” Smith said.
He realized that with 49 percent of voters registered as Republican “over half the county, their vote didn’t count,” Smith said.
“A ton of people said, ‘I didn’t know how to write in, I didn’t understand the process. People kept coming to me for this, so I thought about it for awhile and then I looked at the numbers.
“Sherman County had a little over 50 percent in the primary vote and there were several undervotes, and it was very, very close. I think I lost by 16 votes.”
Smith, who is finishing his second four-year term, has to run as a write-in candidate in the Nov. 8 general election because state law does not allow a person who loses a primary to run in the general election under any other party.
He said, “I have no personal issue with Joe, I think he’s a fine fellow. Enough people have come up to me and said, ‘I didn’t get a chance to vote for you, it isn’t fair.’”
Dabulskis said of Smith’s plans: “It doesn’t surprise me.”
Smith is working to get some signage up and will be sending out mailers. He’s also talking to “a lot of people” and has supporters who will be talking to others. “It’s really a team effort, it needs to be,” he said.
Smith said, “I have an enormous amount of projects I haven’t finished. I don’t know if anybody’s going to be able to carry that on if I’m gone and I’m worried about that.”
He’s hoping to finish the county’s fiber optic project.
“I’m the champion for that, I’ve led that effort” he said of the project, which enabled high-speed internet access.
The first phase of the fiber project has finished – which connected Wasco to Erskine —- and the courthouse is now connected to fiber, he said.
Erskine is about four miles south of Moro, and the next phase will send it from Erskine to Grass Valley and then on the north from Wasco to Rufus.
Smith also helped the county get a $275,000 grant to connect the Oregon state radio system to a digital switch in Erskine, which will enable troopers to talk to local deputies.
The digital switch in Erskine is a multimillion dollar translator for all kinds of radio signals and it serves multiple counties, Smith said.
With fiber connectivity, the county can make a backup 911 center to the main 911 center in Condon, and put the backup center in Sherman County. “We already do 911 for Jefferson County.
“We want to do it for as many counties as we can but we want a backup center because you want redundancy,” he said.
He is also trying to get 15 of the 53,000 state jobs to be relocated to Sherman County.
As for running a write-in campaign, the sitting judge, Gary Thompson, gained office via write-in, said Smith.
“One of the reasons I think it’s really important to continue trying is the judge has to retire, he’s aged out and can’t run again and the other commissioner, Tom McCoy, isn’t going to run again.
“In two years, if Joe would be there, he’d be the senior commissioner,” Smith said.
He said that would leave no one with longevity on the commission.
“It takes a good two to three years to even understand the job and that would be a tough thing to be stuck in that position; to have two new people coming on and one person who’s only been there a short time and I think that wouldn’t be very helpful to the county,” he said.