Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang will seek reelection in next year’s election, setting up a potentially consequential result for Central Oregon politics.
Chang, who has spent much of his career in natural resources preservation, first came to office in 2020 after a victory over Republican Phil Henderson in 2020 with 52% of the vote.
For his latest campaign, Chang said he wants to focus on creating more housing, expanding mental health and addiction treatment, and increasing drought and wildfire resiliency in the county.
“County commissioners are in a position to address some of the most pressing issues facing our community,” Chang said. “I’ve made some real progress on what I feel are common sense policy goals in my first three years in office, and I want to continue that work.”
This will be the first Board of Commissioners election that will be non-partisan, meaning candidates won’t be running in party primaries. Instead, the election will take place in May.
During his first term, Chang has frequently butted heads with his fellow commissioners Tony DeBone and Patti Adair, both of whom were elected as Republicans. The sides have differed on many topics, especially homelessness, which has become a focal point for political leaders across the region.
Last March, DeBone and Adair voted against plans to open a managed camp using federal funding on land owned by the city of Bend. Chang was the lone vote in favor of the project.
He also differed from the other commissioners on urban growth boundaries and what kind of developments are built within them. Chang said he supports building denser housing developments to address the region’s longstanding housing crisis.
“We need to get all of the housing that we can out of the land that we make available for building,” Chang said.
Chang previously ran as a Democrat. He said he provides a unique perspective to the commission that could be lost if he’s defeated.
“I have heard from a whole lot of people who believe that their values and their perspective would not be represented if I did not sit on the board,” he said.
If any candidate fails to capture a majority of the vote, then a runoff will be held in November. Chang is so far the only person to announce their candidacy.