When Benton County, Ore., Commissioner Linda Modrell decided in December to step back from politics and not seek re-election, Pat Malone decided the time was right for him to step in.
Malone, 66, a Christmas tree farmer from Philomath, Ore., is one of three candidates seeking to fill the position Modrell has held since 1998.
A Democrat, he is up against Quintin Kreth and Anne Schuster in the May 20 primary.
Many believe the primary election will determine who will be the next Benton County commissioner. The other two commissioners also are Democrats in the strongly Democrat-leaning county.
Malone believes he is the strongest of the three candidates, having run a small business for 30-plus years and volunteered to serve on many boards and commissions over that span. He recently cut back on his farm work, which, he said, gives him the time to devote to the position.
“I think I’m qualified to do the job and I have enough time,” he said.
“I am able to prioritize projects, and I am able to budget. When most of your income comes in a couple of months (as it does in Christmas trees), budgeting becomes very vital,” he said. “I’ve always been pretty conservative in budgeting and spending.”
To date, Malone has raised $12,000 for his primary campaign fund. He is working off a budget of $15,000, which he believes he will attain. He’s using the funds primarily to print and distribute brochures, and print and distribute lawn signs.
Asked if he considers himself a liberal or conservative, Malone said: “I don’t like labels. Give me an issue and I’ll give you an answer.”
Asked if he would support a petition currently in development to ban production of genetically engineered crops in Benton County, he said: “It is not an appropriate issue to enforce on a county level. The county has no people to do that. And pollen doesn’t respect a county border. It needs to be at least on a statewide level.
“I think what does make sense is much more robust product labeling so people know what they are buying,” he said. But, here again, he said, labeling shouldn’t be enforced on a county level.
Malone has served on the Oregon State University Agricultural Research Foundation Board. He has served as a volunteer firefighter, including as Kings Valley Fire Department chief. He has served on the Linn-Benton Community College Budget Committee, on the Oregon Department of Agriculture Christmas Tree Advisory Committee, and he currently serves on the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation Board of Directors.
The candidates will go before voters in three forums in coming days: The Corvallis Gazette Times has scheduled a forum on April 14 at the Corvallis-Benton County Library, 645 NW Monroe Ave., Corvallis. A second forum has been scheduled April 17 at Grace Lutheran Church, 435 NW 21st St. in Corvallis; and the League of Women Voters has scheduled a forum May 7 at the Corvallis-Benton County Library. All forums start at 7 p.m.