Body Politic (Continued)

LEGISLATURE

Senate District 13

Larry George

Republican

District: Parts of Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill and Marion counties.

If he could live another life, he'd be: Ronald Reagan.

Biggest donations: $10,000 each from Oregon Victory PAC and Oregon Health Care Association.

What we said two years ago about Democrat Rick Ross when he ran unsuccessfully for the state House is just as true today: plain-speaking, easygoing former Forest Service supervisor.

It's just that this time in the Senate race he's facing a smart and engaging Republican in George, who proved his chutzpah by taking on incumbent Sen. Charles Starr in the May GOP primary and beating him.

No, we don't agree with George on a lot of issues, such as taxes and land use (he once headed Oregonians in Action). But you'd be hard-pressed to find a candidate who was sharper in defense of his stances.

Scared he might be too doctrinaire or unwilling to talk to hotheads from the other side? He's comfortable enough in his own skin that he co-hosted a now-defunct radio show with Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, no shrinking violet when it comes to advancing Democratic Party views.

Hell, even Ross says, "Larry's got a lot of potential." We agree.

Senate District 15

Sen. Bruce Starr

Republican

District: Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove and North Plains

Biggest donation: $3,000 from the Oregon Soft Drink PAC.

If he could live another life, he'd be: Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Starr is another Reagan wannabe. And yes, this one-term incumbent in the Senate (who also served two terms in the House) opposes gay marriage and has voted accordingly. We wish it weren't so. In the meantime, we'll pray for him.

But Starr's opponent, Democrat John Napolitano, is so totally underwhelming that he makes Starr shine.

Napolitano, who owns his own small business performing translation work, did ride his bike all the way from Hillsboro to his endorsement interview. He was sweating in his spandex. But he didn't make us sweat when he noted the paucity of big ideas coming out of Salem, and then couldn't come up with one of his own.

Starr, for his part, has a knack for hammering out road projects, unsexy but necessary tasks. He has grateful friends in the trucking industry, who should be watched. And let's not forget about that unreported trip to Hawaii, courtesy of beer and wine distributors.

Lobbyists, Capitol observers and other legislators say Starr is "above average" in our "The Good, the Bad and the Awful" survey. And he's more moderate than his father, outgoing state Sen. Charles Starr. For the time being, that's enough.

Senate District 17

Rep. Brad Avakian

Democrat

District: Northwest Portland, Beaverton and Washington County

If he could live another life, he'd be: Samuel Clemens.

Biggest donation: $1,500 from Nike.

We've regularly blasted Avakian, most recently for opposing Senate Bill 408, which makes sure utilities pay the taxes they collect from ratepayers.

But he always scores well in our biennial legislators survey for brains and integrity. And give Avakian some credit for stones as he tries to move up to the Senate from the House.

He says his fellow Dems are as much to blame as anybody for the state of education in Oregon. His solution: Schools need another $2 billion. All right, smart guy, how are you going to pay for it? His matter-of-fact answer: Increase the corporate minimum tax on a sliding scale to protect smaller businesses, clean the system of tax loopholes and then refer to voters a repeal of the corporate and personal kickers.

Avakian faces such little challenge from Republican Dr. Piotr Kuklinski, an internal-medicine doc, or Libertarian Richard Whitehead, a retired data processing manager, that he says he's spending most of his campaign time working for Suzanne Bonamici in House District 34 (see page 32).

Senate District 19

Sen. Richard Devlin

Democrat

District: Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin and Southwest Portland

Biggest campaign donation: $4,000 from Citizen Action for Public Education.

If he could live another life, he'd be: Dylan Thomas.

Richard Devlin has now served three terms in the House and one term in the Senate, which makes him something of a career politician.

Lucky for him, his Republican opponent, David Newell, is a 30-year-old MIT golden boy who actually said, "I'll never forget the taste of fresh air in Oregon," when we asked why he was making his first run for political office.

Libertarian Marc Delphine is a financial planner who believes he can create "serious change" in Salem. But his political experience is so far limited to serving on the Tigard water board.

Devlin earned high marks from his fellow Salem insiders in 2005 when they gave him an "excellent" rating in our "The Good, the Bad and the Awful" survey. He's willing to admit that he's failed to get school funding where he wants it. But we agree with his cohorts in the Capitol who say he has brains and a strong work ethic.

Senate District 24

Rod Monroe

Democrat

District: Mid-Multnomah County and Happy Valley

Biggest campaign donation: $2,572 from the Oregon State Firefighters Council.

Hidden talent: Sings in gospel choir.

We endorsed Monroe's opponent in the Democratic primary, saying it was time for an emergency infusion of fresh blood rather than the return of this political warhorse.

But against independent Ron McCarty, a perennial no-hoper candidate, and Republican T.J. Reilly, an auto-shop owner who says "fixing Oregon is a lot like fixing cars," Monroe is the clear winner.

Monroe—who served in the House from 1977 to 1981 and the Senate from 1981 to 1989—is concerned about the state of early childhood education in Oregon and tuition increases at the state's community colleges.

As a former member of the David Douglas School Board, which instituted full-day kindergarten, and a current member of the Mount Hood Community College board of directors, Monroe is well-equipped to tackle education issues, even if he's about as exciting as a pot of warm tea.

Senate District 26

Sen. Rick Metsger

Democrat

District: Sandy, Estacada, Hood River

Biggest Donation: $51,956.98 in in-kind donations from the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund.

If he could live another life, he'd be: Edward R. Murrow

Metsger, a former sports broadcaster who now runs a media-consulting firm, is a pro-business Dem who's served in the Senate as the chairman of the Business and Economic Development Committee.

Metsger's legislative tenure started strong—he won Senate Rookie of the Year in WW's 1999 survey of metro-area lawmakers, but last year he scored near the bottom in our "The Good, the Bad and the Awful" survey.

Still, we have to give Metsger props for being out front along with Sen. Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) in making sure that Oregon taxpayers weren't getting fleeced by utilities during the last legislative session with his work to pass Senate Bill 408.

Republican candidate Carol York, a Hood River County commissioner and founder and editor of the Gorge Guide, declined to come to our endorsement interview.

House District 26

Lee Coleman

Democrat

District: Wilsonville, Sherwood, Gaston

Favorite drink: Hennessy cognac.

Biggest donation: $1,000 each from the Oregon Education Association and People for the Improvement of Education.

Republican incumbent Jerry Krummel, the former mayor of Wilsonville, is affable and articulate. His major achievements last session included measures to protect trailer-park residents who are evicted when developers snatch up the property under them, and getting the state's sexual predators website up and running.

Those aren't terrible ideas. But the three-term lawmaker perennially finishes at the bottom of our "The Good, the Bad and the Awful" survey, leaving us looking for an alternative. We're throwing our lot in with Lee Coleman, a former Republican who turned Democrat not long after he came out of the closet. Coleman sees himself as a pragmatist who wants to encourage job growth with projects like building a "Northwest Passage" highway from Wilsonville to Scappoose and cracking down on repeat drunken drivers.

We found Libertarian candidate Charles Radley likable and intelligent, but he's not running much of a campaign and isn't a factor.

House District 27

Tobias Read

Democrat

District: Beaverton and Raleigh Hills

Biggest donation: $10,000 from the Oregon Nurses Association PAC.

If he could live another life, he'd be: His grandfather James Morgan Read Jr., formerly a deputy high commissioner for refugees with the United Nations.

Read is smart and earnest. But he's also an inexperienced, first-time candidate, which is why we didn't endorse him in the Democratic primary last spring.

In this race against Republican Domonic Biggi, who was a Washington County planning commissioner for six years but is also a first-time legislative candidate, we're willing to bet that Read's intellect will carry him through.

It's not as though Read has been entirely absent from the political stage; he's worked for former state Rep. Bryan Johnston of Salem and Lawrence Summers, who was U.S. Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration.

By his own admission, Read is not headed to Salem to "sit in the back row." The product developer for Nike wants to tackle education funding. As for Biggi, he says he'll be in Salem whispering in Read's ear if he loses. It's like winning two birds with one vote.

House District 28

Rep. Jeff Barker

Democrat

District: Beaverton, Aloha

If he could live another life, he'd be: U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller, who said, "We're surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them."

Biggest donor: $1,000 each from Oregon Forest Industries Council and Oregon Optometrics PAC.

Barker, a retired Portland police lieutenant and former police union leader, most impressed us in his second House term with his willingness to take a stand. He defied his party by voting against a school speed-zone law he thought was stupid because it set limits even when no kids were around—such as at 3 am on July 4.

He's not perfect: We were troubled that he sponsored a bill aimed at preventing WW from doing its annual "Hydro Hogs" survey of the area's biggest water users, though other Democrats worked out a compromise in the measure to keep water customers' addresses a public record. But this choice is a slam-dunk for Barker since Republican Eldon Derville-Teer believes almost all social-service programs (except schools and the Oregon Health Plan for foster kids) should be eliminated.

House District 29

Chuck Riley

Democrat

District: Downtown Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove

If he could live another life, he'd be: Leonardo da Vinci.

Biggest donation: $9,777.56 from Future PAC (cash and in-kind).

Flip-flop alert: Four years ago, we endorsed Riley against Republican Mary Gallegos, who painted him as a taxaholic. He lost. When the two squared off again in 2004, we backed Gallegos, who grew a set after she was elected to the House. She lost.

We're endorsing Riley this time against Republican Terry Rilling and Libertarian Scott Harwood. (And no, we're not endorsing him in the secret hope that it will cause him to lose.)

Sadly, our endorsement isn't ringing. We still think Riley is studious, low-key and solution-oriented. But, just as we said two years ago, he's painfully short on specifics. He couldn't remember a single vote he took that went against the unions that are backing him. Like every other candidate who's come through our office, he's for—get ready!—better school funding, affordable health care and getting rid of government waste. Stop the presses!

Still, Rilling, the mayor of Cornelius, isn't ready for prime time. And Harwood is holding himself to the $300 he spent to get into the Voters' Pamphlet.

House District 30

David Edwards

Democrat

District: Hillsboro, North Plains

Favorite alcoholic beverage: 12-year-old Macallan single-malt scotch.

Biggest donation: $14,898 in in-kind contributions from Oregon Trial Lawyers Association PAC.

In this race for the state House seat left open when Republican Derrick Kitts opted to run for U.S. Congress, we found political newcomer David Edwards fairly refreshing.

He's socially progressive, yet the market-research entrepreneur is willing to buck his party leadership on issues such as lowering the capital-gains tax to encourage business investment.

Edwards, who has two master's degrees—one in English literature and one in public affairs—also wants to use frontline state employees' and outside consultants' ideas to streamline state government. Edwards even used the word "obviate" in conversation without missing a beat.

The Oregonian withdrew its endorsement of Edwards and is now endorsing Republican Everett Curry after accusations surfaced that Edwards' campaign manager engaged in deceptive campaigning (and was nearly fired for it). We agree with Hillsboro Argus publisher W. Clark Gallagher's assessment that the O was "had and played" by the right.

Meanwhile, Constitution Party candidate Ken Cunningham's loftiest goal is to get 1,000 votes.

House District 33

Rep. Mitch Greenlick

Democrat

District: Northwest Portland plus Cedar Mill and parts of Beaverton in Washington County

Hidden talent: Skippering yachts.

Biggest donation: $1,000 each from the Coalition for Healthy Oregon and the PGE Employee Candidate Assistance Fund.

When you're 71 years old, it's unlikely you're going to change your ways much. And in the case of Greenlick, that's OK by us.

Greenlick, a professor emeritus and past chairman of public health and preventive medicine at OHSU, is an eloquent voice in the fight for affordable health care and unafraid of an unpopular vote, as he showed last session when he opposed the draconian Jessica's Law.

His opponents in this race are Republican Mark Eggleston, a Portland State University student who couldn't point to one Greenlick vote he opposed, and Libertarian David Long.

House District 34

Suzanne Bonamici

Democrat

District: Beaverton, parts of Portland

Biggest donation: $3,000 from AFSCME Council 75.

If she could live another life, she'd be: Her mother, cementing Bonamici's position as one of the straightest arrows we interviewed.

The race for this open Washington County seat pits Bonamici, a former consumer-protection lawyer who's spent the past few years volunteering for the Beaverton Education Foundation, against Republican Joan Draper, a retired banker, and Libertarian Gregory Rohde.

Draper's a political novice who's raised $35,000, with more than a third of her bankroll coming from Republican lobbyist Larry Campbell. Bonamici, on the other hand, has useful legal skills and educational experience in one of the state's fastest-growing districts and previous service as a legislative aide. She's the easy choice.

House District 35

Rep. Larry Galizio

Democrat

District: Tigard

Biggest donation: $51,000 from Future PAC (House Democrats)

Hidden talent: Stand-up comedy, which we think will serve him well among all the clowns in the Legislature.

Galizio, who teaches journalism and communications at Portland Community College's Sylvania campus, did pretty well as a rookie legislator in 2005.

He earned a reputation for brains and showed some independence, most notably when he bucked his own union (the American Federation of Teachers) to vote for a bill that would have reformed education service districts.

He's running against a well-financed Republican challenger, retired Portland police detective Shirley Parsons. Parsons, who now works for Speaker Karen Minnis' husband, John, at the state's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, has not exactly run a grassroots campaign: In what may be a first, she has raised nearly $100,000 for the general election without attracting a single donation from a named individual. She also didn't bother to come in for an endorsement interview.

House District 36

Rep. Mary Nolan

Democrat

District: Southwest Portland

Biggest campaign donation: $1,000 each from Oregon State Firefighters Council, Owner-Operators of Oregon PAC, Oregon Soft Drink PAC

Hidden talent: "I could empty an auditorium if I sang a song."

Nolan was sitting pretty at our endorsement interview, confident of her chances with no Republican candidate and only Libertarian opponent Frank Dane blocking her return to Salem for a fourth time.

Weeks before the election, the pro-choice champion was encouraging her would-be campaign donors to contribute their money instead to opponents of Measure 43, which would require parental notification for 15-, 16- and 17-year-old girls who want abortions. That's the kind of action that makes Nolan, who has the intelligence and guts to fight for liberal causes, a fine fit for her district.

Nolan says she's proudest of her efforts last session to pass Senate Bill 1000, which would have established civil unions and prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, even though it ultimately failed. Dane, a lawyer and certified public accountant, wants Oregon's top priorities—education, public safety, public welfare—funded first. He offered little else.

House District 37

Bev Backa

Democrat

District: South Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin

If she could live another life, she'd be: Penny Marshall.

Biggest donation: $2,500 from the Women's Investment Network.

Although incumbent Republican Scott Bruun earned only middling marks on our 2005 "The Good, the Bad and the Awful" survey, we found him to be charismatic, articulate and more willing than many to vote his conscience even if it irks his party—such as his stand for tougher car emissions standards. But he had a tendency to give long, less-than-specific answers to straightforward questions.

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Bev Backa, a former marriage counselor, came to the interview well-prepared with a firm grasp of health care issues likely to be a major topic in the 2007 Legislature. She is a well-rounded candidate whose background includes real-estate development and helping her husband run a telephone and data-equipment installation company.

Libertarian David Akin, who refers to himself as "Joe Sixpack," was witty, affable and had no compunction about probing both his opponents on their views—but does not strike us as a viable candidate.

House District 38

Rep. Greg Macpherson

Democrat

District: Lake Oswego and lower Southwest Portland

Biggest donation: $1,000 each from the Oregon Health Care Association and Oregon Soft Drink PAC.

Hidden talent: Plays the bagpipes.

Macpherson might have sported the most expensive-looking suit in our rounds of endorsement interviews, but he's not just a pretty boy. He's proved willing during two terms in the House to tackle unglamorous tasks, such as reforming the state's pension system.

The Harvard grad and employee-benefits lawyer is also uniquely poised to address continuing land-use issues in Oregon. Raised on a dairy farm, Macpherson is the son of former Republican state Sen. Hector Macpherson, co-sponsor of Oregon's most important land-use legislation, Senate Bill 100, which established statewide conservation and development regulations.

Macpherson's Republican opponent, Fred Bremner, is an amiable sort (he handed his camera to our photographer so he could get a snapshot of him and Macpherson) who says Macpherson's support for putting pseudoephedrine behind the counter is simply "feel-good legislation." We happen to agree. But we don't agree with some of Bremner's other ideas, including his belief that Mexican immigrants actually want to reclaim the southwestern states.

House District 39

Mike Caudle

Democrat

District: Canby, parts of Oregon City

Biggest donation: $6,000 from pollster Joel Wright.

Hidden talent: Fantasy football. Caudle's campaigning interferes with his "team," but he brags that he's still 4-1 and trouncing tough competition.

Incumbent Republican Wayne Scott's been in Salem for only two terms, but he sure knows how the place works. He's the go-to guy for Philip Morris and the beer distributors, and he has been the recipient of more than $50,000 from payday and title lenders in the past two years.

Scott screamed in outrage during a special legislative session this spring that placed new limits on payday lenders, and his most recent contribution reports show him raking in more than $30,000 from the utilities, who are looking to roll back tax reforms.

Voters are lucky in this district that Scott's opponent would be a solid replacement: Caudle, an academic adviser at Clackamas Community College (he also was two-time student body president there before going on to be student body president at Oregon State). A pugnacious former high-school wrestler who coaches the sport at Gladstone High School, the 30-year-old Caudle also has a lengthy record of community volunteerism and has spent much of the past two years exploring the vagaries of the healthcare system with a daughter who was born prematurely.

There's little doubt he's more in touch with the district than Scott, who acts as if he thinks his real constituency is the business lobby.

House District 42

Rep. Diane Rosenbaum

Democrat

District: Inner Southeast Portland

Biggest donation: $2,000 from Oregon Health Care Association.

If she could live another life, she'd be: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Rosenbaum faces a contest in name alone. The Pacific Green Party's Jeff Cropp remains on the ballot but says he's too busy with his business to run an active campaign.

Cropp says Rosenbaum is "an intelligent person with good values.'' True. The four-term incumbent ranks high in our "The Good, the Bad and the Awful" survey for brains, integrity and diligence.

A self-described "unapologetic strong supporter of unions,'' Rosenbaum was justifiably proud last session of making sure mammograms continue to be covered by health insurance.

And don't be fooled by her low-key demeanor. When Cropp said in their endorsement interview there was little difference between the two major parties, Rosenbaum pushed back by noting that the last time the Democrats controlled Salem, the Oregon Health Plan was passed. Just listening to her made us nostalgic for an FDR fireside chat and a chorus of "Happy Days Are Here Again!"

House District 44

Tina Kotek

Democrat

District: North Portland

Biggest Donation: $1,000 each from Oregon Nurse-PAC and Coalition for a Healthy Oregon.

Hidden talent: Thanks to a blue-collar upbringing in Pennsylvania, Kotek is a serious kegler who owns her own ball, bowling shoes and, most impressively, a 180 average.

Moderate Republicans in Portland legislative races are rare, and Jay Kushner, a structural engineer who traded the Bay Area for St. Johns 10 years ago, is better than most. An advocate of civil unions and promoting sustainable agriculture as well as school choice, Kushner's not your typical tax-hating flat-earther.

He lacks Kotek's broad social-service and political experience, however. Ambitious, smart and tougher than many do-gooders, Kotek has earned a lot of respect around town and in Salem as a public-policy advocate for the Oregon Food Bank and, in her current post, as policy director with Children First for Oregon.

House District 45

Rep. Jackie Dingfelder

Democrat

District: Northeast Portland

Hidden talent: Used to be a competitive windsurfer.

Biggest donation: $500 each from Dentists of Oregon PAC and Oregon AFSCME Council 75.

In this district, where you're just as likely to see a United Nations flag on a front porch as an American one, Dingfelder is a good fit.

Dingfelder points to her work last session against the payday loan industry as one more example of her progressive bona fides.

But she also demonstrated some profile-in-courage votes by challenging conventional wisdom and opposing Jessica's Law, as well as some across-the-aisle work with Republicans on biofuels.

Republican challenger Dick Osborne, sales manager for World Cup Coffee, is a longtime resident of the district who's got a long list of worries that include the "homosexual agenda" in public schools and growing socialism in government. Neither issue particularly worries us.

House District 46

Ben Cannon

Democrat

District: Southeast Portland

Biggest campaign donation: $1,000 from Eric Lemelson of Lemelson Vineyards.

Hidden talent: Is a classical pianist.

Cannon has one thing in common with his Republican and Pacific Green Party opponents: Each has vowed not to accept money from any special interests. Hear, hear.

But Cannon, a Rhodes scholar turned Tualatin private-school teacher, stands out from his opponents—and that's not just because he talks fast.

We asked all three candidates to pick one cause they would spearhead, if elected. Cannon bravely said he'd champion tuition equity for all graduates of Oregon high schools regardless of their immigration status, meaning undocumented immigrants would be eligible to pay in-state tuition under his plan.

Paul Loney, the Pacific Green candidate, said he'd work to make sure public defenders earned higher salaries. (Surely a worthy cause, but hardly anything to hang a campaign on.) And Republican Bill Cornett, in 1,000 words or more, said he'd work to find efficiencies in state government. Just don't ask him to talk about them.

House District 47

Rep. Jeff Merkley

Democrat

District: Northeast Portland

Biggest donations: $5,000 each from the Oregon Education Association, Oregon AFSCME and Oregon Trial Lawyers.

Hidden talent: Holding seven tennis balls upside down with one hand.

Merkley, the House Minority leader, is known for intelligence and integrity. And Merkley, who's running for a fifth term in the Legislature, is quickly outgrowing his reputation for being all brains and no clout.

In his race against Republican challenger Bruce McCain, a captain in the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, his opponents have targeted him with dirty tricks, like claiming Merkley wants to "mandate the teaching of gay marriage and the gay lifestyle in the classroom at taxpayers' expense." The claim is patently untrue, says Merkley.

McCain, who says "only in [cartoonist John] Callahan's wildest imagination would the WW endorse me over favorite son Jeff Merkley," claims Merkley is out of sync with the district. But talk about being out of sync: McCain wrote to WW, "I know first-hand what an oppressed minority goes through: I am a white, male Republican who works at the Multnomah Building." Poor guy.

House District 48

Rep. Mike Schaufler

Democrat

District: East Multnomah County

If he could live another life, he'd be: Abraham Lincoln—"or it might not be too bad to be an astronaut, too."

Biggest donation: $4,500 from Oregon Forest Industries Council PAC.

If you called central casting for a Sopranos extra, maybe a butcher, you'd probably get someone who looks and sounds a lot like Schaufler.

He's a blue-collar guy with a background in construction, he likes Bud, and he's a lockstep union supporter. But at least you know what you see is what you get.

There is no Republican on the ballot. Bill Stallings, a signmaker who served on the board of Mount Hood Community College, is running as a member of the Constitution Party. He'll talk your ear off about joining with neighboring states for bulk purchasing, but he's not ready for the Leg.

House District 49

Rob Brading

Democrat

District: Fairview, Troutdale, Wood Village and parts of Gresham

Favorite alcoholic beverage: Brading, a preacher's kid who earned a master's degree in divinity, couldn't decide whether he prefers single-malt scotch or IPA.

Biggest donation: $55,000 from Future PAC (House Dems).

Two years ago, when even his wife barely knew who he was, Brading nearly beat House Speaker Karen Minnis in her East Multnomah County district, losing by 53 to 47 percent despite getting outspent about 5 to 1.

It's easy to see why Brading, who runs a local cable-access channel, is effective on the front porch. A laconic Colorado native, he eschews the talking points imprinted on the inside of every Democratic legislative candidate's corneas.

Rather than spending time trashing Minnis, a two-term speaker who has every lobbyist and special interest in Salem stuffing large checks in her pockets, Brading has simply out-politicked her. Earlier this spring, after progressive advocates and Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman pressed for regulation of payday lenders, Brading and a Gresham city councilor wrote a letter demanding similar local action.

Previously a happy recipient of campaign contribution largesse from payday loan companies, Minnis hastily sold out her caucus in a legislative special session last spring, pushing through limits on payday lenders that infuriated many fellow Republicans. Minnis is a smarter, better politician than critics would admit, but she's cut too many deals with too many self-interested donors to continue as a legislator.

Brading, on the other hand, is self-effacing, principled and tough, as he'd have to be to willingly subject himself to the baseless smears that Minnis and her crew used to beat him in 2004 and have wheeled out again this time.

House District 50

Rep. John Lim

Republican

District: Gresham, Powell Valley

Biggest campaign donation: $2,100 from Majority 2006.

If he could be anybody else, he'd be: Harry Truman—a Democrat!

A state senator for most of the '90s, Lim won a House seat in 2004 after we endorsed his Democratic opponent.

His Democratic challenger this time is Jill Selman-Ringer, an office manager for a maid service in East County. Though she's been active with the Multnomah County Democratic Party, she has never held elected office, and her inexperience shows.

This go-round, then, we think Lim's experience should trump Selman-Ringer's good intentions—of finding a stable school-funding solution and paying for health care for every uninsured child.

We speculated in 1997 that Lim might have been the most underrated legislator in Salem. An immigrant from Korea who ran for U.S. Senate in 1998 and who has held a wide assortment of jobs, including pots and pans salesman, Lim never managed to become a leader in the Senate, but he doesn't toe the GOP party line, either.

Libertarian Brian Lowery is also running, but didn't attend our endorsement interview.

House District 51

Ryan Olds

Democrat

District: Damascus, Estacada and parts of Gresham

Biggest donation: $500 from Oregon Education Association.

Hidden talent: After initially claiming a grasp of baseball trivia as his greatest talent, Olds later called in to tell us he can still execute a fake fart with his armpit and hand.

In two terms in Salem, incumbent Republican Linda Flores has done nothing noteworthy. Labor, environmental and education groups rank her near the bottom of her peers, and she earned a perfect "zero" from the American Civil Liberties Union for her votes in the 2005 legislative session. Flores also earned dismal marks in WW's 2005 edition of "The Good, The Bad and the Awful."

All of which is to say we'll take a gamble on her opponent, 23-year-old Ryan Olds, who graduated from Willamette University last spring. Olds spent one term as a legislative intern and, unless he kills somebody, cannot do worse than Flores.

House District 52

Suzanne VanOrman

Democrat

District: Portions of Clackamas, Multnomah counties and all of Hood River County

Biggest donation: $2,500 from Women's Investment Network PAC.

If she could live another life, she'd be: Her great-grandmother, who walked to Wisconsin from New York City in 1847.

VanOrman says her political career peaked 45 years ago when she was volunteering in Oregon for the John F. Kennedy campaign.

But the idealism sparked by that experience seems to have stayed with her; today she calls herself "DoÑa Quijote" because she's hoping to challenge the establishment in Salem.

VanOrman served multiple terms as an Oregon City commissioner, in the early '80s and then again in the early '90s.

She's spent her adult life working with children, most recently as the executive director of a multimillion-dollar nonprofit contractor that runs early childhood education programs, including Head Start. It's hard to imagine a career better suited to preparing a candidate for politics.

VanOrman's opponent, Republican incumbent Patti Smith, who has served three terms in Salem, has accumulated a record in the Legislature long on symbolic gestures such as making the pear Oregon's state fruit. And VanOrman makes a good case to unseat Smith, despite the incumbent's rock-star name.