Rick Pullen of Pendleton reported raising $3,020 and spending almost $2,800 so far in his campaign to oust incumbent George Murdock as Umatilla County commissioner.
Murdock, also of Pendleton, has reported raising more than $10,000 and spending almost $7,200 to win a second full term as commissioner.
Pullen’s campaign financials became public this week on ORESTAR, the Oregon Secretary of State’s website for campaign finance activity. Pullen’s plethora of black and yellow political signs led some local political insiders to question how he was paying for the campaign.
Mostly out of his own pocket, it turns out. According to the website, Pullen has loaned his campaign $2,100. Close family have given $500 to the campaign, and the rest comes from small cash contributions.
Pullen paid $384 to Creative Signs and $450 to DG Gifts & Screen Printing, both in Pendleton. Bridgeview Press of Cave Junction in Josephine County got the biggest check — $1,537. Pullen also spent $262.50 for signs from a company in Orlando, Florida.
“We have purchased a lot of our stuff local,” Pullen said, and “we’ve gone where we can” to keep expenses down. Pullen also said he has family in Cave Junction and listened to their local recommendation.
Murdock and Pullen are facing off for the Position 1 seat on the county board after neither came away with more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary. Murdock came close, with 45.4 percent, and Pulled pulled in 30.6 percent. Tom Bailor of Pendleton came in third with 23.8 percent.
Bailor, who has run for county commissioner three times, said Pullen’s best shot for victory on Nov. 6 is working the old-fashioned ground game.
“If it were me, I would have knocked on every door in this county,” he said.
Murdock is a seasoned and capable administrator, Bailor said, and has name recognition. But he also has a full schedule as the county commissioner, which affects his ability to campaign. Bailor said that’s an advantage Pullen has over Murdock.
Pullen said over the summer he has knocked on doors and attended several small meetings to persuade voters. He and Murdock also met Tuesday night for the local Republican Party candidates forum, and they square off again Wednesday from 5:30-7 p.m. at Blue Mountain Community College, Hermiston.
Pullen said he continues to push the issues he talked about in the primary, including finding a way to fund road maintenance and improvement. He worked for the county for 14 years, he said, and drove all the county roads, noting some are in poor shape.
He also said he wants to find ways to raise awareness of veterans services and deliver those to more residents. He said he wants to help vets keep and stay in their homes, but he did not get into the nuts and bolts of how that might work.
Pullen remained firm on his opposition to cutting county staff during tough fiscal times. He said he wants our communities to be able to stand on their own with the appropriate level of service from the county. Still, he acknowledged advocating for larger government might be a hard sell in conservative-minded Umatilla County.
Bailor said he is not endorsing either candidate, and Pullen and Murdock face one challenge together: the county’s penchant for low voter turnout. The May primary saw 31 percent turnout, though usually more vote in the November general election.
Bailor said he did not have an answer to that problem but the commissioner race is nonpartisan, so voters can eschew divisive politics in casting this ballot. He also said the county level of government “is where the rubber hits the road,” from funding transportation to infrastructure, and at this level, every vote counts.