Harrington celebrates victory, heads to work as new Washington County chair
Kathryn Harrington will move from the Metro Council to lead the Washington County Board of Commissioners starting Jan. 2.
Harrington's outsider campaign easily defeated Bob Terry, a two-term commissioner and 14-year public member of the county budget committee, in incomplete returns Tuesday.
Harrington claimed victory barely 15 minutes after initial tallies put her ahead of Terry, 58 percent to 41 percent.
The nonpartisan position opened up after Andy Duyck announced in spring 2017 he would retire after 24 years on the board, and its chairman elected countywide since 2011.
Harrington and Terry took opposing stances on issues such as housing and transportation. Terry also praised the current direction of county government; Harrington was a critic who campaign for 17 months.
"This win is just a testament of what can happen when people take it upon themselves to stand up against the status quo and take action for what they believe in. I am so honored to have the voters' support," she said in an interview.
"We celebrate victory tonight. Then I look forward getting right to work — and working together — to shape a stronger Washington County for all of us who live here and work here."
Harrington estimated that between her and hundreds of volunteers, her campaign reached about 40,000 households during the primary and general election. She went to 6,000 households between Labor Day 2017 and the May 15 primary; she was sidelined by back surgery this summer, but still managed to reach 1,500 households herself from Sept. 15 until this weekend.
Harrington, 58, is completing a third and final term on the Metro Council from District 4, which extends west from Beaverton to Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove. Before her election in 2006, she worked in high tech, first for Central Point Software and then for Intel.
Her husband is Marc San Soucie, a Beaverton city councilor for the past decade.
Terry, 72, lives in the Bald Peak area south of Hillsboro. He is a retired plant nursery owner, having run Fisher Farms for two decades before foreclosure proceedings in 2015. He succeeded Duyck in District 4 on the county board in 2010, and passed up a re-election bid to run for board chair.
Harrington supported and Terry opposed Measure 26-199, which the Metro Council proposed and voters approved Tuesday to raise $652.8 million for lower-cost housing. Washington County's estimated share is $188 million.
Terry supported and Harrington opposed a proposed system of westside bypass highways. Harrington called for transportation "solutions," among them the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail line from downtown Portland to Tigard and Tualatin.
She also called for more attention to growth of small businesses to match the development of Intel and Nike, and a more open and "accountable" county government. Terry praised county government "and it's run like a government business."
"Those priorities are what you heard me highlight at all those voter forums," Harrington said. "I am excited I will have the opportunity to continue my public service."
Although the commissioners hire an administrator to oversee operations of a county government with an annual budget topping $1 billion and 2,000 employees, the board chair is a major figure in the region.
Washington County is already assured of two new commissioners in January. Pam Treece of Beaverton unseated Greg Malinowski in District 2, and Jerry Willey of Hillsboro won Terry's District 4 seat, both in the May 15 primary.
They will join Commissioners Roy Rogers and Dick Schouten, who were not up for election Tuesday.
Harrington finished first with 37.5 percent and Terry second with 30 percent in the May 15 primary, followed by former state legislator and business association executive Ryan Deckert and telecommunications sales representative Shabba Woodley.
Washington County has changed politically since Harrington and Terry became residents 30 years ago.
Once reliably Republican, Washington County recorded 37.1 percent Democrats, 23.5 percent Republicans and 33.4 percent unaffiliated voters at the end of September.
During the final phase of the general election campaign, Terry's campaign put out several negative mailers against Harrington, who Terry said was eager to raise taxes – although county government cannot increase property taxes without voter approval.
The one that sparked controversy depicted Harrington against a photo backdrop of Portland protests, including a swastika — symbol of Nazi Germany — although there was a thin slash visible.
"It had something pretty disturbing imagery in it," Harrington said.
That mailer apparently went only to Republican households.
It was denounced on social media posts by Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway — who endorsed Terry — and prominent Harrington supporters such as Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Juan Carlos Gonzalez, who will succeed Harrington on the Metro Council.
Harrington said she chose not to respond directly.
"I don't know for Bob's targeted voters whether it helped or hurt him," she said.
"But there are many people in our community who are open-minded and thoughtful — and I think their response was that it was not what they were looking for in government, that they expect more integrity.
"I ran a positive campaign, focused on the needs of this community and the working families of Washington County. That is how I lead and work as an elected official, and I lead collaboratively. So I just stuck to who I am and the way I work. I think voters responded to that."