The Mercury takes a look at Clackamas County

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Dennis Theriault at the Mercury has a piece in today’s paper examining the recent shift in political strategy and funding in Clackamas County: Checkpoint Clackamas! Keeping Portland Out – to Let More Republicans In?

It’s a great, in-depth look at the goings-on and when you’ve got some time, you should read the whole thing. But for now, here’s the quick summary:

Who: The Oregon Transformation PAC, led by Oregon Republican leaders (Dennis Richardson, Allen Alley, and Rob Kremer), and its associated consulting firm Third Century Solutions.

What? The conservative funders behind this group, after failing repeatedly at the state level, have shifted their focus to local races to promote their conservative agenda.

Why? They allege that the local community is voting against “Portland creep,” yet the Oregon Transformation PAC (funded in part by Loren Parks) is pushing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community to hand-pick candidates, train them, and then get them in office. Villanizing Portland is simply a tactical tool backed up by extensive funding.

From Theriault:

The game has changed for the Tea Party-inflected movement that erupted over these issues nearly two years ago—for those inclined to defend Clackamas’ peculiar rural/suburban blend. Whether anyone wanted it or not, there was a declaration of war, against an all-too-familiar villain. Portland.

But is that true? Is that really how Clackamas voters see Portland? Or is that just what moneyed political operatives—looking for a right-wing beachhead just outside liberal Multnomah County—want people to think?

The [Oregon Transformation Project] PAC’s chief aim is to support “authentic” and business-friendly candidates and issues. But by placing its finger on the scale in local races, the PAC joins the county’s local Tea Party chapter, Americans for Prosperity, and other familiar names like Loren Parks and Kevin Mannix.

Barton insists the PAC is only surfing a “rising tide” of discontent and that most of the votes before the primary, on Sellwood and urban renewal, were lopsided affairs.

“This is a fascinating and unprecedented movement, and it isn’t us. It’s the people,” Barton says. “They started before anyone knew who we even were, and they were halfway home before we even got involved. We truly are just helping a movement.”

[Yet] According to state records, the PAC gave just one of the three candidates on its slate, former Wilsonville Mayor John Ludlow, more than $115,000 in 2012—the biggest chunk of the $160,000 Ludlow raised this calendar year.

That cash helped put Ludlow in the runoff for county chair, against Democrat and current County Commissioner Charlotte Lehan—and, as the Oregonian reported this spring, even helped persuade Ludlow to run in the first place.

Click here to read the full piece.

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