Making an impression on voters one-at-a-time could make a big difference in the contest for West Lane County Commissioner this month. Conservative commissioner Jay Bozievich is being challenged by moderate candidate Dawn Lesley. Both are relying on the "ground-game" to reach voters.
Bozievich: "Hello. I'm Jay Bozievich. I'm your County Commissioner and I'm running for re-election. I'm coming around asking people for their support for May 20th."
Lesley: "Hi. Are you Nancy?" I'm Dawn Lesley and this is my son Clayton and I'm running for County Commissioner."
Both candidates were knocking on doors this past weekend-- bringing their message directly to voters in the West Lane District which spans from west Eugene north to Junction City and west to Florence. Lane Community College Political Science Instructor Steve Candee calls this "retail politics".
Candee: "With these local races, you know, I think it's absolutely essential and oftentimes, races are decided by, you know, what they refer to sometimes as the ground game - boots on the ground, getting all your supporters out there working for you, talking to people."
On a recent weekend in Veneta, many people didn't answer when Dawn Lesley knocked on their door.
Voter at door: "Quite frankly, I've never heard of you. Isn't that awful?"
Lesley: "That's okay."
Lesley, an engineer who's running for office for the first time, says it's worth it to be out in the district she hopes to represent.
Lesley: "The people who want to know me will say, no one's ever come to my door before, or I've never met one of my elected officials, I've never met a county commissioner. So, if you get elected, I'll have met one of my County Commissioners. And they like that and an exchange happens that I think is the way it's supposed to be, we're supposed to be open and accessible to the public and we're supposed to be listening to their views."
Lesley says she got into the race because she didn't like what she saw happening on the board.
Lesley: "I'm concerned that we're not moving forward on recovering from the recession and creating the new economy for the future where Lane County is thriving again and where we have a functioning public safety system and I'm watching our Commissioners have scandals and backroom deals and lawsuits and cover-ups."
The board's most recent scandal involved the firing of County Administrator Liane Richardson. She had been converting leave time to take-home pay. In a heavily redacted report, Richardson told an investigator that 3 board members, including Jay Bozievich, were aware of what she was doing. Bozievich says Richardson was dishonest about her pay, so her claims that commissioners were aware of it are also lies.
Bozievich: "It makes a great headline for the Register Guard to say "Richardson said Commissioners Knew", and then you had to read through their entire article to the end to say, and by the way the investigator found her to be untruthful."
Many people criticize Bozievich and the other conservative board members for the redistricting of the county after the 2010 election. Most of the more progressive voters in Lane County are now concentrated in the South Eugene district. Janice Marshall joined Dawn Lesley going door to door in Veneta recently. She says she doesn't live in the West Lane District, but…
Marshall: "In a way I'm representing the many people that got redistricted out of this district that share my beliefs that because of Jay, he made sure that their votes don't count as much."
Political Science instructor Steve Candee says Jay Bozievich may be more vulnerable than fellow conservative Board members Sid Leiken and Faye Stewart, who are also up for re-election.
Candee: "I think Jay is perceived differently than the other conservatives, the other Republicans, because I think people see him as more actively engaged, rather than sort of going along with stuff."
Bozievich's supporters say he's got principles and isn’t afraid to stand up for them.
Thummel "Jay has to be re-elected. There's no ifs, ands, or buts."
Margaret Thummel is a Eugene businesswoman. She joined Bozievich on a recent day of canvassing in the Bethel neighborhood.
Thumel: "We have so many problems and we really need common sense people running these jurisdictions."
Jay Bozievich says he's running for re-election because he wants to continue to work on bringing more jobs to the county and improving public safety.
Bozievich: "Those are the 2 big issues I ran on four years ago. I've spent the last almost 3 ½ years now doing those things. And what I want to do is continue, those are going to be my priorities, job creation and public safety."
Bozievich was instrumental in helping to bring a call center to Veneta and worked with state representative Val Hoyle on the new state hospital in Junction City. During his term on the board the county successfully got a public safety levy approved by voters.
Jobs and public safety top the list of priorities for both candidates for the West Lane Board Seat. It's an off-year primary so voter turnout may be low. The deadline to vote in the primary election is May 20th.
CORRECTION: This story initially reported fundraising totals for Jay Bozievich and Dawn Lesley based on information from the Oregon Secretary of State's office-- but only based on money raised in 2014. Including money raised in 2013 and 2014, Bozievich's campaign fundraising total as $97,272. Lesley's campaign fundraising in 2013 and 2014 total $109,327. These totals include loans and contributions as of May 2, 2014.