Election 2022 Town Hall will feature candidates for Malheur County commission, judge

Ballot drop boxes at the Malheur County Courthouse in Vale, and in Ontario, Nyssa and Jordan Valley serve as collection points for ballots in the 2022 primary election. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz)

The competitive races for two seats on the Malheur County Court will be featured at an Election 2022 Town Hall in Ontario on Monday, April 11.

The event, produced by the Malheur Enterprise, will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Four Rivers Cultural Center.

The two candidates for Malheur County judge – incumbent Dan Joyce and challenger Tom Vialpando ­­– are scheduled to appear.

Vale businessman Jim Mendiola, making his second run for county commissioner, will also attend. His opponent, Commissioner Don Hodge, said classes and a hunting trip would not allow him to participate at any time in mid-April.

In the Town Hall, the candidates will each make opening remarks. That will be followed by questions from the Enterprise news team and then questions from the audience. Publisher Les Zaitz will moderate the event, which will be streamed live on Facebook.

“It’s vital that voters in Malheur County hear directly from those who want to manage county government,” Zaitz said. “We truly hope voters will step up to ask questions about the issues that matter to them the most.”

No other county seats are contested. Treasurer Jennifer Forsyth and Clerk Gayle Trotter are unopposed. In state offices, District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe, Circuit Judge Erin Landis, and state Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, also are unopposed.

Joyce is seeking his fourth term on the county court. He was elected county commissioner in 1998, re-elected to a second term and was half way through that term when he was elected county judge in 2004. As county judge with a six-year term, he is the chief executive officer for the county and works full time.

Vialpando, a partner in a 3D printing business, was elected mayor of Vale in 2020, defeating incumbent Mike McLaughlin.

Mendiola, who operates Jim Mendiola Gravel Products, lost in a three-way race for county commissioner in 2020. Ron Jacobs won the race, defeating incumbent Larry Wilson, an Ontario real estate agent.

Hodge is seeking his fourth term on the court and for the first time has an opponent. A retired commercial banker, Hodge was elected to the seat in 2010. He was unopposed in that race, and was unopposed in running for re-election in 2014 and 2018.

Ballots are scheduled to go out around April 27 for the May 17 election. Under a new Oregon law, ballots that are postmarked that day but received later by the county clerk’s office will now be counted. In a close race, those additional ballots could be a deciding factor, elections officials say.