Owning up to his past, felon runs for Medford mayor

A 51-year-old felon who hasn’t voted in Oregon since 2008 wants to be the next mayor of Medford because he thinks the city is a “mess.”

James “Jim” Allen Huddleston — who has a 2011 driving-under-the-influence felony after two previous driving under-the-influence offenses in 2010 — is running for mayor in the Nov. 3 election against former police Chief Randy Sparacino, and city councilors Kevin Stine and Clay Bearnson.

“I was convicted of that and I did do it,” said Huddleston, who spent five and one-half months in Jackson County Jail for his offense. “I shouldered it. I could have gone one or two ways. I could have blamed the police. I could have blamed the judge. I could have blamed the jail and the guards, and I could have done all these things.

“I could have gone in that direction, but the truth is, the arrest and incarceration probably changed my life because I was in the middle of a divorce.”

He said he refused a breathalyzer test on the advice of his attorney when he was pulled over by police. As a condition of his felony conviction, Huddleston is required to submit to a breathalyzer test if necessary.

Huddleston, who doesn’t have a driver’s license and uses the bus or gets a ride from his significant other, said he won’t be eligible to get a license until next year because of his felony.

“Look, you’re talking a decade ago and people can change,” he said, explaining why Medford residents should cast their ballot for a felon. “If I were this person now talking to that person then I would educate him on the dangers of doing so. I thank God every day that I didn’t hurt anybody.”

A former car salesman, Huddleston, who is originally from Irving, Texas, and moved here in 1995, said he’s unemployed now because of COVID-19.

Medford is not for sale, Huddleston said, and local voters need to hold the City Council accountable for its actions. He said the next mayor will have to deal with the many problems created by the current council.

“Whoever inherits this position inherits a sewer,” Huddleston said.

He said the 2011 conviction hit him hard. “I wasn’t necessarily feeling like sticking around,” he said. “I felt my life was over.”

Huddleston was later arrested in 2015 after allegedly beating his third wife and threatening to kill her in a dispute over an Oregon Trail card, according to an affidavit filed by Medford police Officer Paul Mellgren with Jackson County Circuit Court on Feb. 9, 2015.

The case was later dropped after Huddleston’s former wife left the state.

“I am saying that didn’t happen,” said Huddleston. “I wasn’t even at the house.”

He said he didn’t have an Oregon Trail card but his ex-wife did.

While he initially said he wasn’t at the house on the date in question, Huddleston at a later point in the interview said he was asleep when his wife attempted to take his wallet.

Huddleston, who said he’s a “Back the Blue” candidate, initially faced allegations of misdemeanor assault, interfering with a police officer, harassment and menacing.

He said the dispute actually was over a truck leased from his previous employer that his ex-wife drove to Virginia. His ex-wife asked the court at the time to compel Huddleston to pay the $500-a-month lease payments.

Huddleston said his ex-wife emptied his bank account.

According to the police affidavit, Huddleston’s ex-wife said his mental state was deteriorating because he was an alcoholic.

In a previous violent encounter, his ex-wife said he tried to strangle her in her sleep, the affidavit alleges.

On Feb. 5, 2015, the couple got into an argument, and Huddleston allegedly tackled his ex-wife in the laundry room, the affidavit states — forcing her to curl up as she tried to protect her face while he struck her in the stomach several times, saying, “F— you, b—-. I hate you and I’m going to f—— kill you.”

Eventually she broke free from Huddleston and called the police, according to the affidavit.

His wife at the time told the Jackson County Circuit Court on April 6, 2015, that “I am a victim of domestic violence and need a restraining order.”

During an entirely separate contempt-of-court proceeding in Jackson County Circuit Court on Dec. 15, 2010, the record states, “The information filed by the District Attorney’s Office alleged that on Dec. 7, 2010, in Jackson County, Oregon, the defendant willfully violated a restraining order issued by the Jackson County Circuit Court. The defendant admitted the violation in open court.”

According to the Jackson County Clerk’s Office, the last time Huddleston voted in a presidential election year was 2008. After not voting in the following two presidential election cycles, his voter registration, originally filed in 2001, was automatically canceled for lack of activity.

In order to run for office in Medford, a person needs to live in the city for six months. Because Huddleston hadn’t voted, the city required him to submit an affidavit swearing that he has lived in the city for at least six months. According to the city Recorder’s Office, a candidate hasn’t been required to file an affidavit in recent memory because all the candidates had been registered voters, which provides legal proof of an address in Medford.

According to his affidavit, Huddleston says he has lived at his current address since Sept. 20, 2019. Huddleston signed the affidavit Aug. 8, a week after he registered to vote.

Huddleston said he hadn’t voted because he was under the impression that a felon can’t vote in the state, something he later found out was incorrect.

He said he thought about running for mayor prior to discovering that he was eligible to vote.

Huddleston has referred disparagingly to his opponents, including on Facebook and in the Rogue Valley Messenger newspaper, where he called Stine “a traitor to Medford” and “a traitor to his country” even though Stine served in the military.

Huddleston singled out Stine specifically because he said the councilor was at a rally where people were demanding the police disband or be defunded.

Stine, who said the rally was attended by a variety of groups, said he’s voted for every request for police funding while on the council and is a strong supporter of the police.

Huddleston urged Bearnson in the Rogue Valley Messenger “to step aside and step down. I’m going to run over you. You are a drug dealer.” Huddleston said he won’t allow marijuana sales in the city of Medford, even though Medford voters approved the sale of recreational cannabis in 2016. Bearnson works at a dispensary.

“This guy is our Frankenstein,” Bearnson said, responding to Huddleston’s statements. “This is a product of our two-party system always spreading fear.”

Sparacino, the former police chief, is, according to an interview with Huddleston in a Rogue Valley Messenger article, “a super nice man with incredible integrity. And although he has great intentions, he has demonstrated the ability to quit when times get tough.”

Huddleston said the city needs to change direction and listen to the voice of the people to deal with a number of problems, including unemployment, homelessness and the need for a stronger police presence on the streets.

He said the recently opened homeless camp in Medford was a mistake.

“There is no accountability,” he said. “They can leave the camp, do drugs, and come back.”

He said he opposes calls to defund the police, vowing to veto any steps the council may take to limit the police’s budget. Huddleston wants to increase the pay of the police and first responders.

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