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April 25th, 2012 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Cover Story

Election is Coming

For the City Hall throne and other races, we reveal our picks for the 2012 primary.

U.S. House of Representatives

1st Congressional District


IMAGE: Sandi Colvin
Any Republican congressional candidate without a serious campaign is flying into the blades of the Suzanne Bonamici machine. Bonamici in January won the 1st Congressional District seat handily against Republican Rob Cornilles in a special election to replace U.S. Rep. David Wu. 

No strong Republican candidate has stepped up, and GOP voters have a choice between Lisa Michaels and Delinda Morgan. Michaels is an ad sales rep, cable TV host and frequent, unsuccessful political candidate. She’s a Tea Party activist who speaks of herself in the third person and advocates the end of the minimum wage, which she calls Marxist.

We like Morgan, a martial-arts expert who spent three decades driving heavy equipment and now runs a Gaston vineyard with her husband. She calls for a smaller government—limited to protecting borders, mounting a national defense and upholding the commerce clause. She lacks political experience but comes at the race with determination and sincerity. If nothing else, she will provide stark contrast to Bonamici. 

Worst thing Morgan has done for money: “I’ve shoveled mud in the rain. Heavy rain. It’s hard. It’s brutal.”

3rd Congressional District

DELIA LOPEZ (Republican)

With a 2-to-1 registration edge for Democrats, Oregon’s 3rd District is one of the nation’s most hostile to GOP candidates. Which is why we don’t have a serious candidate to present a reasonable alternative to the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

Republican voters in this district (c’mon, we know there are a few of you out there) have two weak choices. Delia Lopez has run before—she was thumped as the GOP nominee in 2008 and 2010—and she’s back sounding like a mix of Occupy and Libertarianism. Lopez, a real-estate investor, rails against multinationals that pay no taxes, calls for ending foreign aid, and wants to kill off the Internal Revenue Service, saying no American should have to make a financial accounting to the government.

Her opponent, Ronald Green, is a TriMet driver who preaches the need for full employment. If elected, he says, he will go to Washington and form a “shadow Congress.” With marginal candidates, the very narrow margin goes to Lopez.

Worst thing Lopez has done for money: Married at 15 and divorced at 17, she had to apply for federal assistance to support her and her child. 

5th Congressional District

FRED THOMPSON (Republican)

It’s puzzling why Republicans have effectively ceded this seat to two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader. Two years ago, GOP candidate Scott Bruun gave Schrader a good race, losing 51 percent to 46 percent. Since then, redistricting narrowed Democrats’ registration advantage from about 5 percentage points to 2. 

Fred Thompson, a longtime timber industry executive-turned-insurance salesman from Salem, ran against Bruun last time. He faces Karen Bowerman, a retired business-school dean who relocated to Lake Oswego from Southern California in 2011. Thompson’s more than three decades in the district give him the edge. 

Worst thing Thompson has done for money: Being asked to dance shirtless in front of the ladies in his office at Georgia-Pacific.

Secretary of State

KATE BROWN (Democrat)

Kate Brown is in the unenviable position of having to convince voters she is sloppy rather than slippery. 

As WW has reported, Brown’s staff botched what was expected to be a May primary faceoff between incumbent Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, a Democrat, and state Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro). Brown’s Elections Division failed to tell the candidates their race was not in May but in November, which will help Avakian. The 11th-hour switch increased Democrats’ concerns that Brown is disengaged, and further convinced Republicans she is a partisan hack eager to give a fellow Democrat a break. 

Brown says she’s beefed up her office’s auditing performance, bringing in former Portland City Auditor Gary Blackmer to keep a closer eye on state agencies. Blackmer has uncovered some rot, most notably at the Oregon Department of Revenue. But Brown has been silent on campaign finance reform and otherwise largely invisible.

Brown has a nominal opponent in Paul Damian Wells, a perennial candidate and machinist who is not running a serious campaign. In the fall, she will face a serious and well-financed Republican challenger, Dr. Knute Buehler, whom we hope will force Brown to explain and defend her otherwise lackluster record.

Worst thing Brown has done for money: “As a lawyer, I found it extremely difficult to ask my clients for money.”

Oregon Supreme Court

Position 3   


Unlike its federal counterpart, the Oregon Supreme Court—the big dog of the state’s judiciary—is relatively apolitical. Lawyers will tell you that, aside from a suspicion the justices don’t work all that hard, the court functions effectively.

Three strong candidates are competing to replace retiring Justice Robert “Skip” Durham. Nena Cook is a smart and ambitious lawyer, a former Oregon State Bar president who serves as a Multnomah County Court judge pro-tem (the judicial equivalent of a substitute teacher). She’s an impressive candidate who needs more bench experience before getting to the state’s highest court.

Richard Baldwin has been a Multnomah County judge for more than a decade and, before that, had extensive experience as a trial lawyer and as director of the Oregon Law Center and a Legal Aid lawyer. He is, by reputation, a smart and compassionate lawyer, who is accessible and down to earth.

By a whisker, however, we’re siding with Tim Sercombe, who has served on the Oregon Court of Appeals for the past four years and had a long career in private practice. Lawyers describe him as brainy, emotionally suited to appellate work (justices need to be analytical and good writers), and possessing a sturdy work ethic. Our verdict: Sercombe’s the choice.

Worst thing Sercombe has done for money: Worked as a painter and on a road-construction crew.

Oregon Court of Appeals

Position 6

TIM VOLPERT (Nonpartisan)

The state’s Court of Appeals is often called one of the nation’s best, and voters have three strong candidates running for an open seat. Tim Volpert, our choice, is a lawyer with Davis Wright Tremaine (full disclosure: This firm represents WW) who has argued about 100 appeals-court cases across a wide spectrum of issues. This gives him the experience an appeals jurist needs, given the myriad topics and disagreements that arrive from trial courts.

We’re troubled that Volpert talks up his work with the American Civil Liberties Union but led the successful fight, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, to allow the Vernonia School District to compel student-athletes to take drug tests. 

We liked Allan Arlow, an administrative judge who had a successful career in the telecommunications industry. We’re impressed with Arlow’s thoughtfulness and wit, but he lacks Volpert’s breadth of legal experience. James Egan is the only candidate now serving as a state court judge—he’s on the circuit court bench in Linn County. He spent most of his career as a trial lawyer and, in our view, doesn’t yet have the record to recommend him for a promotion.

Worst thing Volpert has done for money: Detasseling seed corn under the hot Indiana sun for hours at a time.


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