As the May primary lurks closer and closer, campaign money and endorsements are piling up in the county commissioner race for South Eugene. The Pete Sorenson vs. Andy Stahl contest seems a bit of a liberal against liberal, green against green match-up, but race-watchers say it’s more clearcut than that.
“They both have their merits; I think Sorenson’s are better,” says Andy Kerr of The Larch Company, who recently weighed in on the race in an op-ed in the R-G. Kerr is a consultant for various environmental organizations across the West, including Oregon Wild.
Representing the Oregon Wild Conservation Leaders Fund PAC, Chandra LeGue says “For Lane County residents who care about what kind of place we leave for our kids and grandkids, Sorenson is clearly the better choice.”
Both LeGue and Kerr point to Stahl’s support of the controversial DeFazio forest plan that would log on 1.5 million acres of public forests to generate money for Oregon counties. “Sorenson instead supports working to find alternative funding sources that do not sacrifice our public natural resources,” LeGue says.
Stahl says he supports the DeFazio plan if it were to be modified. He emphasizes his work to save the spotted owl.
“Stahl did a lot,” Kerr says, “There’s no one hero here, a lot of people worked very hard on the spotted owl.” He says ironically the DeFazio plan would undo much of the work that Stahl did. He calls the plan, which stemmed from a timber trust plan Stahl authored, a political, not biological plan.
Stahl points to past disagreements with environmental groups over how to save old growth and the spotted owl. “If I had listened to the Sierra Club then, our old-growth forest would not be protected today,” he says. He adds, “Get the picture? I lead, I don’t follow.”
LeGue says the Oregon Wild PAC endorses Sorenson because “Pete has consistently worked for and spoken out in favor of environment protection, and has been willing to take heat from powerful special interest groups in the process.”
Sorenson has also recently garnered the endorsement of the LCC educators union, which normally does not issue an endorsement. The union’s legislative PAC told union members in an email: “After reviewing all the candidates we thought that Pete would best represent the interests of LCC faculty. As you may know, Pete served for several years on the LCC Board of Education and advocated for faculty in the past as a board member.”
Sorenson’s campaign donations have included several unions, members of land use watchdog group Landwatch Lane County and local attorney and EW co-owner Art Johnson.
Stahl says, “You’ve seen my campaign finance filings. Friends and family. Nothing from ‘special interest’ groups; nothing from corporations.” Stahl’s father, UO professor Frank Stahl, has loaned the campaign $10,000 and Randal O’Toole, a fellow of the libertarian and Koch Bros.-affiliated Cato Institute has donated $500 to the Stahl campaign. O’Toole has been an opponent of mass transit and government land-use planning, but Stahl points out O’Toole won two prestigious environmental awards in Oregon for his work on reforming the Forest Service. The awards were in 1978 and 1981.