Viewpoint: Talent voters face stark choice in local election

The two Talent election slates shown at top along a picket fence and at bottom in a prepared campaign format.
October 27, 2022

What the voters’ pamphlet doesn’t tell you

By Matt Witt

Talent voters are facing a stark choice as several local residents have published previously undisclosed information about a slate running against Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood and four current council members.

One resident released publicly available information from the Jackson County Elections Office showing that four of the five candidates on the opposition slate switched their party registration from Republican within days of filing to run in a town that gave less than 27% of its votes to Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Another resident posted links to websites for the church where opposition mayoral candidate Mark Anderson served until recently as pastor for 22 years. The church websites call gay marriage a sin, praises the overturning of Roe versus Wade, oppose equality for women, and call for deportation of undocumented families.

Anderson said in the Jackson County Voters’ Pamphlet that he is a “retired pastor” but did not say which church or that he still provides sermons there.

Residents who posted this research in Talent-oriented social media groups said they were prompted by the fact that the opposition candidates are all relative unknowns, with only one of the five challengers listing any previous volunteer involvement with the city in the voters’ pamphlet.

“Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing,” said Talent resident Lee Lull, who posted the information about the opposition slate’s party affiliation switches.

According to the county elections office, Mark Anderson was a registered Republican since at least 1988 (including both Trump elections) but changed his registration to Democrat on Aug. 9, one day before he filed to run in Talent.

Council candidate Kevin Zimmerer was a registered Republican since at least 2002 but changed that on Aug. 15, six days after filing to run.

Cynthia Jones became a registered Republican in October 2016 when Trump was first running for president but changed her registration one day before filing for Talent City Council.

Council candidate Deric Manzi registered as a Republican in September 2020 when Trump was running for reelection, but changed that on Aug. 3, four days before filing to run.

“I’ve never really considered myself to be Republican or Democrat,” said Manzi, who was the only slate member to respond to Lull’s post.

In another Talent Facebook group post, resident Dorian Hastings shared information from Mark Anderson’s church, Ashland Christian Fellowship, which says on its website that it is “a Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship.”

The Calvary Chapel website says that:

— “God’s design for marriage and sex is for one man to join together with one woman.” “God calls sexual activity between people of the same gender sin.”

— “God created human beings, male and female,” and “God created them to fulfill distinct but complementary roles in the contexts of marriage, family and the local church.”

It then cites a Bible verse that says that “the husband is the head of the wife” and “wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

The church’s blog says it supports “a border fence, national ID cards, or any other reasonable steps a government takes to try to ensure the safety and success of its own people.”

It also says that anyone in the U.S. who is undocumented should “face the justice of deportation that they deserve.”

It says that “the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe versus Wade is a significant step toward rectifying one of our nation’s worst sins. Though nine justices cast their votes, the God of Heaven is the one who sovereignly gave us this merciful outcome.”

“Elections are about policies, not personalities,” Hastings said. “The voters of Talent must decide if this is who we want to represent our community’s values and to keep Talent affordable and diverse. And if this is who will help maintain Talent as a place where everyone is welcome, no matter how much money you have, where you are from, what you look like, or who you love.”

Anderson did not respond to the disclosure of this information. His voters’ pamphlet statement says that “Mark has decades of successful leadership and peacemaking
experience. He’s a calming influence who, as your mayor, will bring Talent’s family together to solve difficult issues.”

The slate headed by Anderson is running against a “Forward Together” slate that Includes Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood and four current council members, Nicole Greider, Colette Pare-Miller, David Pastizzo, and Eleanor Ponomareff, all of whom are Democrats.

They say they will continue to work to keep Talent affordable and diverse, bring all of Talent’s displaced families home, work with the fire district for fire prevention and resilience, improve emergency preparedness, help small businesses get back on their feet, and maintain Talent as a welcoming place for all.

They say they “have secured millions of dollars for transitional and affordable housing and will continue to make housing an urgent priority.”

Mayor Ayers-Flood noted that the Talent City Council unanimously voted in August to ask new City Manager Jordan Rooklyn, who is also the new executive director of the Talent Urban Renewal Agency, to scale back a previously proposed urban renewal plan to reduce impact on other taxing agencies and to ensure that any new plan would be put to a vote of Talent residents before it could be implemented.

The mayor said in the voters’ pamphlet that she has “committed that Talent voters would have the final say. I will not support any plan that would jeopardize public services.”

Anderson’s slate also vows not to jeopardize services provided by other taxing districts but does not commit that Talent voters would be the ones to decide if a scaled-back plan is developed.

Anderson released a campaign video on Oct. 18 after every Talent address received a mailing on Oct. 13 in support of his slate.

The four-page mailing claimed that Mayor Ayers-Flood and the council approved the proposed urban renewal plan they actually voted down in August.

It also claimed that the Talent Police Department is not fully staffed when in fact it is and will be providing 24/7 coverage as several officers complete training.

The mailing prompted a social media backlash from residents because of the false information and because it was unsigned, contained no return address, and did not disclose how it was paid for.

Five days later, Anderson posted a video in which he did not correct or disavow the false information in the mailing, but said that “I am committed to making sure that, from this point on, we do nothing but run a positive campaign.”

Matt Witt is a writer and photographer in Talent.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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