Tension abounds in Clackamas County Republican Party as Mark Shull considers his future

Harm Boers

In November of 2020 the people of Clackamas County were duped into electing a xenophobic, homophobic hate-mongering racist to the Board of County Commissioners. That elected official, Commissioner Mark Shull, simply had to resign. That’s the basic premise of an email received by the Clackamas County Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office on Jan. 8, 2021, mere days after Shull took office.

The email, written by Cris Waller, a Clackamas County Democratic Party official, contained examples of Shull’s comments from his Facebook account, which Waller and many others saw as statements of intolerance for various groups.

Almost 30 months later, Shull still shows up to work every day, even on Mondays when other commissioners and county officials choose to work from home.

With all the controversy around his election and the difficulties he’s had with calls for his resignation, being censured by the Board of County Commissioners and being removed from his liaison duties for the commission, it might surprise people to find Shull still feels he has work to do.

“People ask me if I’m going to run for reelection, and I tell them that I won’t make a decision until probably around the first of September,” Shull said in a recent interview with Pamplin Media Group.

“What I’m gonna do is I’m look at what’s going on, talk to folks, talk to the Clackamas County Republican Party, talk to anybody who will talk to me about what they think should happen. Who do people want to be (county board) chair? Do they want me to run again?” Shull said.

Shull recently received praise from the Republican Party for his steadfast opposition to the county’s plan to buy a hotel for transitioning people out of homelessness, while the current board chair faced a censure threat and was pressured to reverse her purchase vote.

Running for reelection to his current seat as County Commission Position 4 is only one option for Shull.

“I’ve got three choices; I can file run for chair, I can file to run for Position 4 again, or I can just walk out of here on 31, December 2024, and do something different. Those are my three options. Today I can’t really tell you what I want to do.” Shull said.

Of the three options, Shull stated only one might cause him some serious problems.

“If I were to decide to file to run for chair, I know from September of this year all the way to 31 December of next year, Tootie Smith is going to treat me like dirt.”

According to Shull, his working relationship with Tootie Smith, current board chair and fellow Republican, has been anything but supportive. Smith led the charge within the county board in calling for Shull’s resignation. Smith proposed the censure of Shull. Smith worked to remove Shull from his duties as a liaison to various groups.

According to Shull, all of these things were done to distance herself from Shull and to protect her own political career.

Pamplin Media’s requests for comments from Smith on the matter went unanswered.

“I will say that there’s a probability that I have the same thing happen in my head when I decided to run for commissioner and that is, is it time to quit? Does this third option about just walking away, is time to do that? Would you be better off running for reelection in Position 4 again? Would it be best for the people in the county if I ran for chair?” Shull said.

“I have not heard anybody say to me, please don’t run again. Maybe there’s a plenty of Cris Waller pals out there who would love to say that to me, but they haven’t. So everywhere I go, I get handshakes, and thanks from people telling me I’m doing a good job.”

Clackamas County’s political left doesn’t like Shull for what they feel he represents: hatred, vitriol, racism and an agenda that seeks to do away with equity, diversity and inclusion programs that many feel are necessary for the country, and the state, to move forward.

Some on Clackamas County’s political right dislike Shull because his positions draw the attention of the left, and of media outlets, which makes it more difficult for conservative politicians to get elected. Some members of the Clackamas County Republican Party have tried to distance themselves from Shull in the hope that he would simply go away.

County commissioners are not subject to term limits, which could allow Smith to keep her position for years to come if she isn’t ousted by Shull or another contender. Commissioner Paul Savas has been on the board for 13 years.

A challenge from someone in Smith’s own party would open the door to a Democratic Party candidate to take advantage of the split in the Republican Party and step into commission leadership, which could swing the board back to the left.

“If somebody challenged her, from our own party, would be, well, less than ideal for her,” Shull said. “Especially with the people in the party who really appreciate what I’m doing. They don’t have the same sentiment towards Tootie. But what I want to do is kind of see what’s going on, see who else might run, maybe some other person might run for chair. That would be just really, really good. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

“I think people know I really care; care about people who are struggling in small business, care about families that are struggling to make ends meet.” Shull said.

Shull’s experience with the public confirms, in his mind, a belief that he’s doing the right thing by sticking around.

According to Shull, community members often say to him “you know what, you’re different from the other commissioners, what kind of values do you use to make the decisions you do? And I tell them every time,” Shull said, “respect for the Constitution as amended, Judeo Christian values, law and order 24/7/365. And family, if something is not good for the family, I don’t support it. In fact, any issue, those four values, and if it doesn’t satisfy all four, I know it’s gonna be a problem. It won’t last, you know, so that way I’m consistent because of these.”

“I think people might like to know that I always have this feeling of responsibility,” Shull said, “As a commissioner, as a man, as a dad, as a citizen. I have a strong sense of responsibility. I never assume somebody else would do the work; I just stand up and bear the load.”

According to Shull, he’s the only commissioner that comes to work every Monday.

“The fact that I’m here today, every Monday, it’s like, Sleepy Hollow up here. And I always look out my window and see who’s here. Well, no, Mark Shull’s car is here. That’s it. I think that is probably going to be the one thing that would drive my decision, come September,” he said.

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