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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.

Oregon House of Representatives

House District 29 (Cornelius, Hillsboro, Forest Grove and parts of Washington County)

BEN UNGER (Democratic Primary)

Unger is a frenzied political organizer and consultant who towers more than a foot over his opponent, Katie Riley, a retired OHSU administrator. Unger’s work at TallFir, his consulting firm, makes us nervous about potential conflicts of interest, but his energy and enthusiasm make him an easy choice in this race. 

Unger’s background includes leading the Oregon Student Association and directing national organizing efforts for the Public Interest Research Group for nine years. He has led the field efforts for Measure 49, which protected Oregon’s land-use laws; persuaded the Legislature to expand civil-rights enforcement on behalf of his then-boss, Attorney General John Kroger; and has run several campaigns. 

He’s a quick study who’s independent enough to support mandatory minimum sentences, a Democratic piñata—plus he grew up on a working farm, which gives him perspective many metro-area lawmakers lack. Riley just seems to be going through the motions.

Worst thing Unger has done for money: Digging temporary toilets for migrant workers.

House District 36 (Southwest Portland)

DR. SHARON MEIERAN (Democratic Primary)

Voters in this district, currently represented by Mary Nolan, who is running for Portland City Council, have an unusually broad range of choices. 

Benjamin Barber, a computer programmer, is full of ideas for reforming government. His two opponents, Jennifer Williamson, a lobbyist for PacifiCorp and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, among other groups, and Dr. Sharon Meieran, an emergency-room physician at Portland Adventist Hospital, both offer more compelling résumés. 

Williamson practiced law (including briefly representing this newspaper) and worked for Portland State University and the Oregon Department of Education before becoming a contract lobbyist. She’s sharp and would hit the ground running in Salem. 

But Meieran brings an even stronger background. She was a Bay Area intellectual-property lawyer who went back to medical school in her 30s. Meieran brings a wealth of experience with tech companies—part of Oregon’s future—and health care, the single biggest social, economic and political issue lawmakers must tackle. 

Currently, there is not a single physician in the 60-member Oregon House. We think Meieran, whose volunteer work as a court-appointed special advocate and in her children’s school is also impressive, is an excellent remedy.

Worst thing Meieran has done for money: As a young lawyer, she searched through thousands of pages of Nintendo documents in a windowless conference room.

House District 41 (Milwaukie)

SAM CANTRELL (Republican Primary)

IMAGE: samcantrell2012.com
The winner of this primary will face the five-term incumbent Democrat, Carolyn Tomei, in November. Neither Republican candidate has raised a significant amount of money—nor has much hope against Tomei. And neither accepted WW’s invitation to an endorsement interview. We’re left to make this choice based on their minimal public offerings. 

Pharmacist Tim McMenamin is running on “the McMenamin family name,” which, as he says on his Voters’ Pamphlet statement and website, “is noted for its entrepreneurial spirit, a rich tradition of job creation and investigative journalism.” 

His campaign material fails to address a single specific issue or offer any concrete ideas. Besides coming across as vaguely feudal, running on a name can backfire. So, sorry Tim: On our last visit to a McMenamins, our fries were soggy.

Our endorsement goes to Sam Cantrell, a Concordia University business student who looks like former Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten. Cantrell offers an extensive platform on his website. He is especially concerned about alternative energy, civil liberties and excessive corn subsidies—and he opposes the Columbia River Crossing. Sounds OK to us.

House District 44 (North and Northeast Portland)

MICHAEL HARRINGTON (Republican Primary)

IMAGE: michaelharrington.org
Don’t worry, St. Johns Republicans, this is not the founder of Democratic Socialists of America, antipoverty activist and author of The Other America, which helped inspire Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. That Michael Harrington died in 1989. 

This Michael Harrington is a truck driver whose chief policy goal is to increase the speed limit for big rigs to 65 mph—a bad idea. Though we disagree with Harrington on many issues, we appreciate his opposition to the Columbia River Crossing. Harrington—who is learning the Tagalog language in his spare time, though he has never been to the Philippines—should be the one to face incumbent Democrat Tina Kotek in the November general election. 

The other candidate on the ballot, Daniel Ticknor, who says he’s disabled, declares he couldn’t do the job if elected and insists we not endorse him. Check.

Worst thing Harrington has done for money: “Honestly, I can’t think of anything embarrassing at all. Joined the National Guard. Did security. I worked fast food. I worked at Godfather’s [Pizza]…. If you don’t have a college degree, you start small and you work your way up.”

House District 47 (Outer Northeast Portland)

THUY TRAN (Democratic Primary)

The race to replace two-term incumbent Jefferson Smith, who is running for Portland mayor, attracted two strong Democrats. Jessica Vega Pederson, who markets Microsoft’s video-conferencing software, has served as a precinct committee person. Thuy Tran, an optometrist, has run her own clinic in the district for 15 years.

Both candidates are bright and fired up about addressing the poverty, crime and lack of resources that afflict their district. Tran, who came to the U.S. in 1975 as a refugee, is a dynamo whose street-level activism spans from working with the Lions Club eyeglass drive to founding a Girl Scout troop to joining the Parkrose School District’s budget committee. Her life experience and professional experience give her the nod.

Worst thing Tran has done for money: Asked for political contributions.

House District 48 (Happy Valley and parts of Portland and Clackamas County)

JEFF REARDON (Democratic Primary)

Five-term incumbent Mike Schaufler has earned a reputation as one of the most independent votes in the Oregon House. He was the lone House Democrat to vote against the bills that became Measures 66 and 67, the 2010 income-tax increases. 

Independence is an admirable quality, but other members, such as Reps. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) and Greg Matthews (D-Gresham), are examples of independence without the rudeness and unprofessional behavior that have become Schaufler’s trademark. 

He has regularly berated and belittled those who disagree with his vision of clear-cutting to prosperity. His boorishness culminated in an incident at the 2011 AFL-CIO convention in which his unwanted pawing of a female lobbyist led to his being stripped of his co-chairmanship of the House Business and Labor Committee. 

Schaufler talks incessantly about the importance of jobs—and he’s right—but he hasn’t worked outside the Capitol since 2004. Instead, he has used campaign funds to defray a dizzying number of bar tabs, hotel rooms, oil changes and numerous other expenses other lawmakers do not claim.

His spending may be legal but leaves him wide open to the perception that he depends on contributors to make ends meet.

Reardon is a shop teacher and former school-board member in the David Douglas School District who worked for Tektronix for 20 years. Reardon is, bluntly put, underwhelming, but he will bring a level of maturity and dignity that this seat has lacked. 

Worst thing Reardon has done for money: Riding a bus for two hours to work in waist-deep snow as a Weyerhaeuser logger.

More endorsements


City of Portland 

U.S. House of Representatives 


Multnomah County Commission

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