The outgoing Metro councilor and Washington County commissioner are running for county chair.

Kathryn HarringtonProspective voters will have a chance to hear from the two candidates running for the open chairmanship of the Washington County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Sept. 24, at Pacific University.

The university is hosting Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington and County Commissioner Bob Terry for a forum at its Taylor Auditorium, room 216 of Marsh Hall on the Forest Grove campus. The candidates will field questions from attendees and talk about their plans for Washington County.

Harrington was the top vote-getter in a four-way primary in May, with 37.5 percent of the vote. As no candidate claimed an outright majority of the vote in May, the second-highest finisher — Terry, with 29.8 percent, edging former state legislator Ryan Deckert in third place with 23.3 percent — advanced to the Nov. 6 general election along with Harrington.

The election has significant implications for Washington County and the region.

Washington County is second in population behind only Multnomah County among counties in Oregon, and it is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state, according to Portland State University demographers in a 2017 report.

Bob TerryFor years, the county government has been dominated by a conservative majority on the Board of Commissioners. But Washington County has increasingly tilted Democratic, delivering its votes to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election by a 26-point margin, and left-of-center candidates for county chairman captured more than 70 percent of the vote in May.

With Chairman Andy Duyck not seeking re-election, his seat is up for grabs.

The race is officially nonpartisan. However, Harrington, a 12-year veteran of the Metro Council, is a registered Democrat who enjoys significant support from Democratic Party officials and traditional backers, such as organized labor and environmentalist groups. Terry, who has served for eight years on the county commission representing western Washington County, is a registered Republican who is endorsed by Duyck and other conservative local officials.

Harrington has positioned herself as an "outsider" who will change the way that Washington County works with regional partners, such as Metro. Terry has defended the county's direction, pointing to its rapid growth and strong economy, and suggested he will carry on much of Duyck's work.

Compounding the political significance of the race, the other four county commissioners are divided evenly along partisan lines. Commissioner Dick Schouten is active in local Democratic politics, and Commissioner-elect Pam Treece is also a registered Democrat. Commissioner Roy Rogers is counted among the conservative majority on the Board of Commissioners, and Commissioner-elect Jerry Willey, a former mayor of Hillsboro, is a registered Republican as well. That means whoever comes out the victor on Nov. 6 will break the tie between the commission's more liberal and more conservative wings.

"The contest to select a new county commission chair is, arguably, the second most important candidate election in the state after the governor's race," said Jim Moore, director of political outreach for Pacific University's Tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement, in a statement. "The new chair will be a crucial player in the county's role as the economic engine for the entire state."

Moore is expected to serve as moderator of the forum. Questions will also be taken from the audience, according to Pacific.

The forum begins at 7 p.m. Seating is limited. There is no charge for admission.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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