Lehrke, Peterson in fall face-offLast-minute brouhaha over campaign signs
The race for the District 4 seat on the Washington County Board of Commissioners narrowed after last week’s primary election, pitting a Stillwater veteran against a political newcomer.
Commissioner Myra Peterson will oppose Autumn Lehrke in the fall general election after the two candidates placed ahead of Colleen Millard last week. Peterson, 71, is seeking a fifth term on the Washington County Board of Commissioners, first winning a seat on the board in a 1993 special election. Lehrke, 28, is making her first run for public office.
The contrast in experience is the single biggest factor in the race, Peterson said recently.
“(I have) a history of working with the board, working with the state, working with the region,” the longtime commissioner said. “Our problems are not going to be solved just by the economy alone. It’s how we can maximize — and what, if any — ways we can work together with other local units of government. It all boils down to experience.”
Lehrke said she doesn’t see the experience gap as a negative, but rather that she would bring “a fresh set of eyes and creative ideas.”
“When you do something for so long I think you just get tunnel vision and do things because that’s the way it’s always been done,” she said of Peterson, whom she called “a professional politician.” She added: “I have experience in other things. We need someone who’s in touch with the community with real life experiences.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2.
The two candidates have already clashed indirectly, thanks to a brouhaha over campaign signs that sent accusations flying from Lehrke’s camp.
Last Monday, the day before last week’s primary, Lehrke found more than a dozen of her signs had been removed from roadside locations, many along busy Jamaica Avenue.
Lehrke and her husband, Derrick, an announced candidate for Cottage Grove City Council, alleged that mayor Myron Bailey had ordered the signs been taken down.
Lehrke posted last week on her Twitter account, autumnlehrke, “just found out the mayor ordered public works to take down my signs, but left theincumbents.”
City officials, including Mayor Myron Bailey, public works director Les Burshten and community development director Howard Blin, contend the removals were routine procedure and that Lehrke’s signs had been placed in the public right-of-way.
Blin said the community development department receives complaints regarding improperly placed signs and will react to those. Burshten also said public works makes sweeps of the city on Monday to take down violating signs.
Lehrke wasn’t satisfied with the city’s explanation, she said. Her signs were legal, Lehrke contends and she wondered why the signs hadn’t been removed earlier if they were unlawfully placed.
Bailey admitted it didn’t look good to have the signs come down just before the primary. “The timing (stunk),” he said. “It was supposed to have been done three weeks ago.”
Peterson took issue with the charge that Lehrke’s signs were removed in a politically motivated act on her behalf. None of her signs were removed last week.
“We are all given the same ordinance,” she said. “We have the campaign rules and regulations. Peterson added: “I found (the allegations) totally unfounded and quite frankly disrespectful of local city ordinances and county ordinances.”