Until this weekend, there seemed no right time to weigh into this year's Yamhill County Commission races, or especially, race - one of which has turned stunningly close and won't be resolved for months yet. But given that it won't now (almost certainly) be settled until November, some thoughts about the unexpectedly razor close Mary Stern-Mary Starrett contest seem in order. It can be and sometimes has been easily misunderstood, so considering that this was a situation we've watched closely, living (and voting) in Yamhill County.
From the beginning, then.
Yamhill County is historically quite Republican; it will vote for Democrats winning big for major offices (a Ron Wyden, say) but in closer races tends Republican, and elects mostly Republicans locally. some of the base here is rural and resource-industry oriented, meaning that there's some reaction to the social and economic liberalism close in to Portland. But Yamhill also has been changing. The largest city and seat, McMinnville, leans Democratic, partly because of college influence (at Linfield College) and partly other factors, including some labor union activity. There is also this: McMinnville particularly is a very community oriented city, where local civic activism is simply more active than it is in a lot of places.
And there's the underground subject d'controversy which only seldom dares be mentioned in polite company: The wine industry, which is rapidly becoming the economic Big Deal of the county; a good many of the people involved with it lean left. (Democratic legislative candidate Susan Sokol Blosser would be a good personal exemplar.) Probably most people in the county are delighted it's here, but not everyone is. In our small town of Carlton, for example, where wine is a dominant matter, there are some people overjoyed with it (partly for business reasons), and others furious with the changes it is bringing to what they always thought of as a timber town. Wine has been a real catalyst on several levels in Yamhill County, which is less Republican overall than it was four or eight years ago, still leans toward the red, but isn't terrible far from being centrist. (more…)