Bend City Council Candidate List is Finalized

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The deadline for candidates to file for Bend City Council elections passed yesterday and there are no last minute surprises. In fact, the candidate list is entirely unchanged since these candidates first filed nearly a month ago.

None of the councilors appointed following resignations earlier this year are running for election. Mayor Gena Goodman-Campbell is completing her tenure on council. Councilor Stephen Sehgal withdrew his earlier candidacy citing health concerns. And Councilor Mo Mitchell ultimately decided not to run.

As the incumbent council comprises a liberal majority, there was some question whether local conservatives would mount a strong challenge. Postings to a Deschutes Republicans Facebook group indicate that a slate of candidates appeared together at Kevista – which has become a pilgrimage site for Republican candidates at all levels after their vocal defiance of covid safety protocols – earlier in August. Whoever those candidates are, they have not yet come forward together publicly and the Deschutes Republicans are being coy about who they support.

City council positions are nominally nonpartisan – meaning simply that party affiliation will not appear on your ballot – but local parties typically issue endorsements for their favored candidates.


4-year term. Sally Russell was elected to this position in 2018.

If you asked a year ago, most would have expected a crowded field for mayor. Instead, two establishment candidates seem to have discouraged even the cranks and gadflies from competing.

Melanie Kebler is an attorney who grew up in Bend and currently serves on council. She is endorsed by many of Bend’s other elected leaders and has earned a positive reputation for her transparent, frank engagement online and at civic events. Kebler is also endorsed by the Deschutes Democrats.

Chris Piper is a marketing professional who was appointed to city council in early 2019 under swirling controversy. He ran for the appointed seat in 2020 and lost to Megan Perkins. He has since been active with local business and neighborhood groups and has been spotted campaigning with the local Republican Party.

Rick Johns previously filed to run for mayor, but switched to Position 6 after reportedly having a conversation with Chris Piper.

Position 4

2-year term. Completing the unfinished term resigned by Rita Schenkelberg.

Barb Campbell is opting for the shorter term that remains from Rita Schenkelberg‘s unfinished term on Position 4 instead of her previous Position 6. Schenkelberg was elected in 2020, so Position 4 would not be appearing on the ballot this year if not for their resignation.

Though every council position this year is effectively an open seat with no incumbent running, the shorter Position 4 attracted the most new candidates.

Bill Olsen is a real estate professional who has served on local boards, but has not previously leaned toward politics.

Karon Johnson is a retired attorney with an extensive resume. She has been involved with the Old Farm District Neighborhood Association for several years.

Erlin Taylor is a Portland-area property manager and appears to be the challenger with the most polished political posture – though she appears to have no local civic presence online or off prior to this candidacy. Her campaign finance filing lists the same contract treasurer as nearly every Republican running for office in Central Oregon. What’s more, her correspondence is listed as Rebecca Tweed – a Portland-based Republican political consultant who previously worked on Knute Buehler’s statewide campaigns and who more frequently consults for business lobbyists.

Erlin Taylor appears to be registered to vote in Lake Oswego. She purchased a condo in Northwest Crossing in October 2020 while continuing to be domiciled in Lake Oswego. She may have had a prior residence in Bend, but if so, it is not apparent from named records.

Erlin also provides us an answer to who attended that Republican candidate reveal at Kevista on August 9th. The picture on her website’s About Me page shows her seated at Kevista with Sean Sipe.

Photograph from Erlin Taylor's About page on her campaign website. Picture shows Erlin seated at Kevista Coffee with Sean Sipe (left).

(If this reads with the intensity of a gumshoe detective story, that’s only because certain candidates have been almost totally absent from campaigning with nearly no prior public presence of any kind with 70 days to Election Day. There’s been a big gap in public information so far.)

Position 5

4-year term. Gena Goodman-Campbell was elected to this position in 2018.

Sean Sipe is a realtor and son of Michael Sipe, an “entrepreneur” and the state legislative candidate who bought the title sponsorship of the Deschutes County Fair for $25,000 in campaign funds. Sean does not yet have a campaign presence beyond a scheduled appearance at his dad’s booth at the fair earlier in the month.

Ariel Mendez is a political science professor at OSU-Cascades and current chair of the Bend Parks & Recreation Department board. Ariel has been a long-time advocate for a variety of causes in Bend and is perhaps most recognizable for his safe transportation advocacy.

Position 6

4-year term. Barb Campbell was elected to this position in 2018.

Mike Riley is the longtime director of the Environmental Center in Bend. Riley has served on a number of city committees in Bend over the past 25 years, helped found the community radio station KPOV, and recently cooperated with Katy Brooks of the Bend Chamber in leading the effort to pass the 2020 Transportation Bond. His full civic resume would be too long to list here!

Julia Brown applied for the council vacancies following the resignations of Mayor Russell and Councilor Schenkelberg. She is a retiree who lives in Bend.

Rick Johns first announced a run for mayor before deciding on Position 6 instead. Bulletin coverage from when he announced for mayor makes clear that he is running as an opposition candidate to the current city council. The piece noted that, “Johns doesn’t believe a housing crisis exists.”

Local Democratic candidates and elected leaders at a recent BBQ event. Mike Riley is 3rd from left; Melanie Kebler and Ariel Mendez at right.

In a way, it’s nice that city council races aren’t a multi-year affair like some other campaigns. However, successful candidates typically spend years gaining experience and building their reputation as a capable leader, developing networks of trust among the community, and have at least a website ready by the time they file for office.

This year’s races can still go any number of ways, but the fundamentals may be hard for newcomers to beat. While there are a variety of big issues on the table, and groups like the Bend Humanity Coalition up and down the West Coast trying desperately to create wedge issues, this is the third local election since the pandemic began. A politics of backlash might not have the broad appeal that users on Nextdoor or in your local neighborhood association may believe it does. Or this could be the year that voters do something differently.

Ballots go in the mail in 40 days, on October 10th.

Correction: This article previously identified the person at right in the photograph above featuring Erlin Taylor as Chris Piper. Piper wrote in to clarify that it is not him and that he was not at the Kevista event. I regret the error.

Sean Sipe also writes in to clarify that the photo  was not taken at the Republican event on the 9th, but rather later in the month when he happened to run into Taylor and her husband at Kevista. Sipe also says he was not at the earlier event and that it was held to gather signatures for a different candidate.

Eric Lint lives in Bend

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