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October 17th, 2012 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Cover Story

Risky Business

There’s a time for playing it safe... and our 2012 Endorsement Issue says this is one of them.


Secretary of State

Knute Buehler (Republican)

Incumbent Kate Brown made a grab for headlines and credibility last month when she pledged to limit her expenditures in this race to $1 million. Brown’s proposed limit was late, insincere and ineffective, befitting a tenure in which she has often seemed a step behind. She probably wouldn’t have been able to top $1 million anyway, making her pledge hollow.

Although in 2008 she pledged to support a constitutional amendment limiting campaign contributions (Oregon is one of just four states with no limits), Brown, a Democrat, has not done that or anything meaningful about stemming the flood of money into politics.

It’s one of her many failures in this job.

She refused to investigate Charlie Hales’ Washington-residence duplicity, and she rescheduled the Bureau of Labor and Industries election so incumbent Brad Avakian, a fellow Democrat who faced a difficult re-election race, could delay his day of reckoning until November, when turnout would help him more. Brown denies a partisan sop to Avakian, but her credibility is badly damaged.

She’s now the one in jeopardy, facing a serious opponent in Knute Buehler.

Buehler, a Bend orthopedic surgeon and Rhodes scholar, does have a record of trying to limit political spending. He was a chief petitioner of a 1994 ballot measure that imposed campaign limits (later struck down).

He is a moderate (including on abortion rights) who has twice worked to pass nonpartisan primaries. Buehler lacks Brown’s 20 years of political experience. But he’s been successful not only as a surgeon but as a medical entrepreneur and partner in a 170-person medical office. Some of his statements about the security of Oregon’s vote-by-mail system give us pause, but we’re satisfied Buehler deserves a chance to bring integrity back to the secretary of state’s office.

There are two other candidates worth noting: Pacific Green Party candidate Seth Woolley is a whip-smart government wonk. Progressive Party candidate Bob Wolfe is in the race to protest what he says is Brown’s disqualification of otherwise valid signatures gathered by him and other initiative petitioners. (Wolfe was circulating a marijuana-legalization initiative this year and Brown fined him $65,000, alleging his campaign illegally paid signature gatherers.)

Wolfe is essentially saying vote for anyone but Brown. We put it this way: Vote Buehler.

What superpower would Buehler choose? “I’d like to fly.”

State Treasurer

Ted Wheeler (Democrat)

Ted Wheeler’s got an important job few Oregonians know exists: overseeing the state’s investments, handling its cash and watching its debt. He bears the added burden of following a string of former treasurers whose administrations excelled at the most important aspect of the job: Generating above-average returns for $72 billion in state pension and other funds.

Wheeler is smart, hardworking and honest. And earnest—often painfully so. It might be easy to underestimate his toughness, but don’t: He recently finished first in his age class in a triathlon.

He’s also making smart moves. At the risk of alienating public employees—whom he’ll need for his inevitable run for governor—Wheeler is pushing a plan to reduce the cost of public pensions. At the risk of alienating the downtown business interests—who consider this son of a timber baron one of their own—he produced a damning 2011 review of the financial assumptions underlying the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing project. 

He’s pitched an interesting college-funding plan, included credit unions among the state’s bankers, and sharpened the Treasury’s focus on corporate responsibility.

His GOP opponent, management consultant Tom Cox, is sincere about trying to fix the pension system’s $16 billion deficit but lacks Wheeler’s financial background and political skills. 

The one word Wheeler would use to describe himself: “Thoughtful.”

Labor Commissioner

Brad Avakian (Nonpartisan)

The labor commissioner’s job is low-profile but vital. The nonpartisan statewide office oversees the Bureau of Labor and Industries, which investigates workplace discrimination and pay complaints, leads apprenticeship programs and referees workplace turf battles.

A former workers’ comp lawyer and legislator, Brad Avakian has held the office since 2008. Avakian has made no secret of his interest in bigger jobs, most recently seeking to replace U.S. Rep. David Wu in last year’s Democratic primary. Avakian got trounced.

Initially, state Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) had a fighting chance to unseat Avakian in the primary when light turnout would have helped Starr. (Secretary of State Kate Brown ended that hope—see above.) Starr, who specializes in transportation as a lawmaker, might still have had a chance in the general election. But he’s done little to win the race, and in our endorsement interview, Starr bombed. He looked uninterested in making a serious challenge to Avakian, offering vague, unsubstantiated anecdotes about the incumbent’s record. Avakian wins by default.

What would Avakian change about himself? “I have a penchant for doughnuts.”

Oregon Supreme Court

Richard Baldwin (Nonpartisan)

Both Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Richard Baldwin and Portland attorney Nena Cook have strong legal minds, and both have demonstrated true commitment to helping those with less access to the legal system. But Baldwin, an 11-year court veteran, has the breadth of experience it takes to make calls on death-penalty cases, land use and constitutional questions that come before the state’s highest court. Cook has spent two decades as a business and employment lawyer in private practice and five years as a judge pro tem (a volunteer substitute judge position). She clearly has promise and makes a good case that others—U.S. Supreme Court Judge Elena Kagan, for example—have moved to high courts without previous experience as a judge. But her exaggeration of her own record, including claiming she has heard and decided hundreds of cases as a pro-tem judge, is troubling and not especially judicious.

What superpower would Baldwin choose? To be able to instantly understand a person’s experiences and background.

Oregon Court of Appeals

Tim Volpert (Nonpartisan)

It’s not the top court in the state, but the Oregon Court of Appeals does much of the judiciary’s heavy lifting. The court received between 3,000 and 3,800 filings per year over the last decade. So the court demands someone with experience.

Tim Volpert, our choice, a lawyer with Davis Wright Tremaine (full disclosure: this firm represents WW), has pleaded more than 100 appeals in state and federal courts—including once before the U.S. Supreme Court and more than 60 appeals before the very Oregon Court of Appeals he’s seeking to join. He’s got the seasoning this fast-paced court needs.

Judge James Egan, a two-year veteran of the Linn County Circuit Court, has a compelling life story—a former farm boy and juvenile delinquent makes good—but we’d like to see him serve a few more years before he takes another shot at the state’s second-highest court.

What would Volpert change about himself? He’d be more patient. 


Oregon Senate, District 14 (Beaverton and Sylvan)

Mark Hass (Democrat)

After six years in the House and five in the Senate, Mark Hass, a former TV newsman turned ad man, has made himself a very effective legislator. As chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he helped push through changes to the university system that will make Oregon’s seven campuses more independent. He got full-day kindergartens passed and trimmed funding for scandal-plagued education service districts. His GOP opponent, Gary Coe, who owns tow-truck companies and other automobile-related businesses, is a sharp guy. But Hass is a business-friendly Democrat who remains a good fit for his district.

What would Hass change about himself? “I’d like to be more patient.”

Oregon Senate, District 17 (Northwest Portland and Cedar Mill)

Dr. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (Democrat)

Dr. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a family doctor at Oregon Health and Science University, was appointed to the seat vacated by now-U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici earlier this year. At a time when health care is central both to Oregon’s economy and budget, Steiner Hayward’s expertise and energy are welcome additions to Salem’s upper chamber. Her opponent, Republican John Verbeek, a Washington County insurance salesman, has only a loose grasp of Oregon government and politics

What would Steiner Hayward change about herself? “I’d like to be more detail-oriented.”

Oregon Senate, District 18 (Southwest Portland and Tigard)

Ginny Burdick (Democrat)

Ginny Burdick, who works in crisis public relations, has the ideal background for serving in Salem. A four-term Senate veteran, Burdick has shifted her focus from civil rights and guns to taxes. She’s been at odds with the left wing of her party, which defeated her tax-reform proposal and put abolition of the corporate kicker on the ballot over her objections.

Her Republican opponent, art consultant Suzanne Gallagher, fumbled even the easiest of WW’s questions, such as this one: After calling herself a “very free thinker,” she was unable to give us one example of how she would vote differently from the GOP Senate caucus.

The one word Burdick would use to describe herself: “Sturdy.”

Oregon Senate, District 21 (Southeast Portland and Milwaukie)

Diane Rosenbaum (Democrat)

Diane Rosenbaum is seeking a second term as a state senator after serving a decade in the House. She has proven to be an effective legislator, even when given the thankless job of serving as Senate majority leader and trying to keep her fractious Democratic caucus in line. She led the fight to extend unemployment benefits and institute protections for Oregonians facing foreclosure. Rosenbaum’s opponent, Cliff Hutchison, espouses libertarian views, including legalizing marijuana and ending land-use planning, and isn’t running a viable campaign.

What superpower would Rosenbaum choose? “I’d like to be able to read minds.”

Oregon Senate, District 22 (North and Northeast Portland)

Chip Shields (Democrat)

Chip Shields, who chairs the Senate Committee on General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection, manages a medical office when not in Salem. He entered the House in 2005 and initially focused on criminal justice. But since moving up to the Senate in 2009, he has become the building’s resident critic of the health insurance industry, convincing the Ways and Means Committee to hire an outside actuary to review insurance companies’ rate hike requests. His opponent, Libertarian Party candidate Herbert Booth, hasn’t made a case for defeating Shields.

The one word Shields would use to describe himself: “Accessible.”

Oregon Senate, District 23 (Northeast and Southeast Portland)

Jackie Dingfelder (Democrat)

Jackie Dingfelder is an environmental consultant who has served in the Legislature since 2001, moving to the Senate in 2009. She can claim a big share of the credit for establishing marine reserves off the coast, and for the 2011 expansion of Oregon’s bottle bill to include sports drinks, juice and coffee containers. As chairwoman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, she is often at odds with rural lawmakers and the timber industry. But as much as anyone in the Legislature, she fits her district. Her opponent, Independent Party nominee Tracy Olsen, has suspended his campaign.

What would Dingfelder change about herself? “I’d be taller!” says the 5-foot-2 lawmaker.

Oregon Senate, District 25 (Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village)

Scott Hansen (Republican)

Voters in this race have a rare choice: two candidates who can truly call their district home. Both Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, a Democrat seeking a fourth Senate term, and Republican Scott Hansen, a dentist, grew up here. Monnes Anderson, a retired public health nurse, has been in a position for a decade to make a difference on health-care reform. Instead, as WW put it in our biennial ranking of Portland area legislators, she has “the political heft of a hummingbird.”

Hansen has experience as a businessman, involvement in local schools and knows something about health care—a combination that should add value to the Senate on the biggest issues of the 2013 session. He will probably be a reliable GOP vote, but Hansen will also add spark and energy this district has not seen with Monnes Anderson.

What would Hansen change about himself? “My eyebrows.”

Oregon House, District 26 (Wilsonville and Sherwood)

John Davis (Republican)

John Davis is a real-estate lawyer who won the Republican nomination in this district after the incumbent, Rep. Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville), dropped his re-election bid following a WW report he slept with one of his legislative aides. Davis is bright and thoughtful, although many of the issues he talks about come right out of the GOP playbook, and it’s not yet clear how, if at all, Davis will show his independence. Still, he is a good fit for his district. 

Democrat Wynne Wakkila is a management analyst who has served many government agencies, and she ran an anti-sex trafficking organization. But in our endorsement interview she showed a lack of knowledge and understanding about the job she seeks.

The one word Davis would use to describe himself: “Attitude.”

Oregon House, District 27 (Beaverton and Southwest Portland)

Tobias Read (Democrat)

Tobias Read, a three-term incumbent, recently quit his job as a Nike shoe developer to work for Portland State University and spend more time on his legislative work.

He’s already among Democrats’ more promising House members. Last session, he fought successfully to create a rainy-day fund to help make the budget more stable when state revenues fall.

His opponent, Republican Burton Keeble, a retired technical writer, says his No. 1 priority is making Oregon a right-to-work state. His anti-government rhetoric and proposal to privatize public schools puts him out of step with his district.

What superpower would Read choose? “I’d like super hearing power, to better hear what is said and what is not said.”

Oregon House, District 28 (Aloha and portions of Beaverton)

Jeff Barker (Democrat)

Jeff Barker, a former Portland police detective, talked publicly about retiring from the Legislature after the 2012 session. We’re glad he changed his mind. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he’s a steady hand leading prison reform and trying to rein in Public Employee Retirement System benefits.

His Republican opponent, Manuel Castaneda, has a terrific biography: born in a tiny Mexican village; moved to Pasco, Wash., to pick berries with his 12 siblings; and founded his own construction company specializing in seismic upgrades. Castaneda now has a single-minded obsession with removing government red tape on small business—almost to the point where he can’t see any other issue. He seemed genuinely unaware he’d been endorsed by Oregon Right to Life, for example, and told us he wouldn’t vote to limit abortion. Keep Barker.

What would Barker change about himself? “I would be a naval aviator. Always wanted to fly, and I never did.”

Oregon House, District 29 (Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove)

Katie Eyre (Republican)

We probably agree with Ben Unger, the Democratic candidate in this race, on more issues than we do with Katie Eyre, the first-term GOP incumbent. Unger, a political consultant who has the height and energy of a Columbia Gorge wind turbine, is a farm boy turned political organizer. He’s tougher on crime than most Dems and brings a perspective on agriculture land use Democrats often lack.

But our admiration for Eyre has only grown. She brings skills—including experience as a CPA—that are in short supply in the Capitol.

And she’s put those skills to use. Eyre has been brave and relentless in questioning the numbers—many of them bogus—that underlie the biggest piece of pork on the public spit: the Columbia River Crossing project. She’s done so despite tremendous pressure from the lobby to knuckle under, as Unger and many others have done.

We see no compelling reason to replace Eyre—and many reasons voters should herald her work.

The one word Eyre would use to describe herself: “Faithful.”

Oregon House, District 30 (Hillsboro and North Plains)

Shawn Lindsay (Republican)

Democrats have struggled to find strong candidates in this Washington County district, despite having a 2,000-voter registration advantage over Republicans. In 2010, they nominated Doug Ainge, a school teacher and political neophyte.

This time it’s Joe Gallegos, a retired college professor and administrator who is as unprepared and uninspiring as Ainge.

First-termer Shawn Lindsay, an intellectual-property lawyer, is a little too slick sometimes, but his caucus chose him to handle redistricting and he was independent enough to buck leadership on closing a loophole on cellphone use in cars. 

What would Lindsay change about himself? “I’d like to be taller,” says Lindsay, who’s 5-foot-10 “in good shoes.”

Oregon House, District 33  (Northwest Portland and Cedar Mill)

Mitch Greenlick (Democrat)

Since he was first elected to the House a decade ago, Mitch Greenlick, a retired Oregon Health & Science University professor and former director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, has been his chamber’s resident expert on health care. Greenlick has been central to the creation of a health-insurance exchange and Gov. John Kitzhaber’s reform of the Oregon Health Plan. He was also one of the earliest and loudest critics of the Columbia River Crossing project.

Greenlick’s GOP opponent, Stevan Kirkpatrick, a former Marine, did not bother to fill out a voters’ pamphlet statement.

What superpower would Greenlick choose? “I’d be invisible. That would make it easier to know what’s going on around you.” 

Oregon House, District 35 (Tigard, Metzger and Garden Home)

Margaret Doherty (Democrat)

A fireplug who taught high school and led a teacher’s union local, Margaret Doherty is a consistent advocate for education funding. Like many Democrats, Doherty is inclined to pretend foes simply don’t exist—a dangerous game to play in Tigard, where light-rail opponents will have to be reckoned with. Her challenger, John Goodhouse, is one of the more wooden candidates propped up by Stimson Lumber money. He spent much of the endorsement interview attacking Doherty for “killing jobs” by supporting a bill limiting online florists—a bill Doherty, who owns her own floral shop, later worked to fix. Send him a consolation bouquet.

What would Doherty change about herself? “I’d be 5-foot-8.”

Oregon House, District 36 (Multnomah Village and Southwest Portland)

Jennifer Williamson (Democrat)

Rep. Mary Nolan is giving up this seat to run for Portland City Council, leaving Jennifer Williamson, a lawyer-turned-lobbyist, to run against Republican Bruce Neal, who recently moved to the district after a long career teaching school in Southern California. Neal’s an interesting guy—he worked for the National Security Agency prior to teaching and now inspects kitchens to make sure they meet kosher standards. But he cannot compete with the knowledge and contacts Williamson has built in stints working for the Oregon Department of Education and Portland State University. (Full disclosure: She once worked as WW’s attorney.)

What would Williamson change about herself? “I’m a terrible speller.”

Oregon House, District 37 (West Linn and Tualatin)

Julie Parrish (Republican)

After emerging as a surprise winner in 2010, Rep. Julie Parrish raised eyebrows during her freshman term with her blunt talk and casual inelegance (wearing flip-flops on the House floor is a fashion no-no). She wasn’t especially effective, but she was relentless. That fits her narrative of growing up poor and scrapping her way to college and an MBA. We admire her drive, independence and work ethic.

We don’t much agree with Parrish’s right-wing views, however, and were willing to consider an alternative. Her opponent is Democrat Carl Hosticka, a retired professor who served three terms on the Metro Council and, years earlier, several Oregon House terms representing Eugene.

In our endorsement interview, Hosticka never made a case as to why voters should send him back, and when we pressed him, he showed himself to be brittle and sanctimonious. He complained about Parrish’s support of online charter schools (which we don’t much care for either), but sounded as if he was working off an Oregon Education Association script.

We thank Hosticka for his years of public service, but Salem doesn’t need another OEA mouthpiece. Parrish’s voters should send her back to Salem, hellbent as usual, with hopes she can channel her energy more effectively.

The one word Parrish would use to describe herself: “Fireball.”

Oregon House, District 38 (Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland)

Chris Garrett (Democrat)

Two-term incumbent Rep. Chris Garrett got a free ride this cycle when his Republican opponent, Tom Maginnis, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, abandoned his candidacy. One of the most thoughtful and effective members of the House, Garrett would have won easily anyway. Garrett chaired the House Committee on Rules and represented his caucus in the contentious but successful process of redrawing legislative districts. He’s a low-key business lawyer who’s independent enough to have bucked environmental interests on development, defied the teachers’ union to vote for expanded charter schools, and emerged as one of biggest skeptics about the Columbia River Crossing project.

What would Garrett change about himself? “I’d love to be able to play the piano.”

Oregon House, District 40 (Oregon City and Gladstone)

Brent Barton (Democrat)

How the mighty have fallen. In 2009, House Speaker Dave Hunt represented this district and was touted as a future gubernatorial candidate. Now he’s leaving, after losing a bid for Clackamas County chair. Former State Rep. Brent Barton (D-Clackamas), who lost a 2010 Senate race, is now running for Hunt’s seat. Barton slid into the district to make the run—the second time this young politician has carpetbagged.

Republican Steve Newgard, 58, a masonry contractor, grew up there and knows the community. He’s also talked about fiscal responsibility while having trouble paying his property taxes, and lacks much rationale for his candidacy. Barton, a Harvard-law-educated trial lawyer, is bright, works hard, and last time around he was willing to vote against his caucus and then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski on a controversial Metolius River bill. Barton is the better choice.

What would Barton change about himself? “I’d like to relax more.”

Oregon House, District 41 (Sellwood, Eastmoreland, Milwaukie and Oak Grove)

Carolyn Tomei (Democrat)

Carolyn Tomei, now in her sixth House term, usually divides the respondents to WW’s biennial “The Good, the Bad and the Awful” survey of legislators. Some think she’s sincere but ineffective; others, usually those concerned with social services, think she’s a star. We found Tomei to be sharp, earnest and brave in our endorsement interview—she probably knows more about mental health issues than anyone in the Legislature. And she has refused to be a pushover on the Columbia River Crossing, remaining skeptical about the freeway mega-project. Her opponent, Tim McMenamin, is a no-show who parrots GOP rhetoric.

The one word Tomei would use to describe herself: “Persistent.”

Oregon House, District 44 (North and Northeast Portland)

Tina Kotek (Democrat)

We don’t share Rep. Tina Kotek’s enthusiasm for the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing project, but she’s got a better argument for it than many of her colleagues. Kotek’s district bears the brunt of Interstate 5 traffic: dismal air quality, truck traffic struggling through inadequate intersections, and refugees from the jammed freeway sneaking through surface streets. A former advocate for kids and human services, Kotek does her homework and builds coalitions effectively. Those skills have put her on top of an often-fractious caucus. Her opponent, truck driver Michael Harrington, is thoughtful and well-spoken, but he’s on the road too often to have built a serious campaign. 

What would Kotek change about herself? “I’d like to exercise more.”

Oregon House, District 45 (Northeast Portland) 

Michael Dembrow (Democrat)

Grizzled professor Mike Dembrow teaches English and film studies at Portland Community College—and the prospect of an 8 am class under his dour pedagogy has us reaching for the snooze button.

But we’re happy to endorse him as he seeks a third term in Salem. Students should be pleased, too: Dembrow’s proudest achievements are bipartisan legislation to provide free tuition at Oregon universities for foster children, and a bill to pump $2 million into high-school career and technical education.

Running against Dembrow for the second straight election cycle, Republican activist Anne Marie Gurney remains more concerned about preserving the online charter school her son attends than in pursuing any wider education reform.

What superpower would Dembrow choose? The same one as the aliens in a vintage Superman comic, who grabbed Lex Luthor, “put their long fingers on his bald head, and took out all of his rage.”

Oregon House District 47 (Parkrose and outer East Portland)

Jessica Vega Pederson (Democrat)

This district has become a launching pad for ambitious pols: U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and current incumbent Rep. Jefferson Smith have worked the lean streets of East Portland to their political advantage. Seeking to replace Smith, who is running for Portland mayor, are Democrat Jessica Vega Pederson, a project manager for a tech company, and Maggie Nelson, a retired Catholic school teacher. Pederson, a third-generation Mexican-American who has been active in her neighborhood association and with the East Portland Action Plan, has two small children headed for public schools and is more in touch with this overwhelmingly Democratic district.

What would Vega Pederson change about herself? “I wish I could sing. I have the worst voice ever.”

Oregon House, District 48 (Outer Southeast Portland and Happy Valley)

Jeff Reardon (Democrat)

The first time we interviewed Jeff Reardon, it was like Clint Eastwood’s conversation with an empty chair. He had little to say about why we should endorse him in the primary, but he was running against Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley), who didn’t deserve to get re-elected.

Reardon won, has found his voice, and brings a wealth of experience to this race. He’s a Vietnam vet who worked as a logger and sandwiched two teaching stints around 20 years at Tektronix. He also served for a decade on the David Douglas School Board. He’s a flinty, self-deprecating character who could be destined to find a role in the common-sense wing of the Democratic caucus. His Republican opponent, George “Sonny” Yellott, a paralegal, didn’t bother to submit a voters’ pamphlet statement or raise money.

The one word Reardon would use to describe himself: “Hard-working.”

Oregon House, District 49 (Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village)

Matt Wand (Republican)

Republican Matt Wand surprised a lot of people in 2010 by defeating one-term incumbent Rep. Nick Kahl. Wand, a construction lawyer, passed an important accountability measure: making sure lottery money set aside for economic development got spent for its intended purpose and didn’t just pay for county government operations. Democrats are trying to unseat Wand, 37, a steady, phlegmatic type, with Chris Gorsek, who teaches geography at Mt. Hood Community College. Gorsek has previously run for the Oregon Senate and Metro council, both times failing to make the case for himself. The same is true this time, and we see no reason voters should not send Wand back to Salem.

What superpower would Wand choose? “I’m terrified of airplanes. I wish I could fly.”

Oregon House, District 50 (Gresham)

Greg Matthews (Democrat)

Greg Matthews is a firefighter and former cop who also served as an Army paratrooper and military police officer. He’s an amiable guy who has proven to be a hard worker for his constituents, especially when it comes to veterans’ affairs. He’s a conservative Democrat and often a reliable vote for the business lobby.

Matthews is a clear favorite over his challenger, Republican Logan Boettcher, who offered the curious idea of replacing all taxes in Oregon with a statewide land-value tax to cover all government services. Boettcher acknowledged he had no idea what that might cost the average homeowner—he said he had found the idea on the Internet and still wasn’t sure how it might work. While he Googles, vote for Matthews.

What superpower would Matthews choose? “The ability to clone myself and be in three places at one time.”

Oregon House, District 51 (Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus and portions of Southeast Portland)

Shemia Fagan (Democrat)

Incumbent Rep. Pat Sheehan, a first-term Republican, is sharp and more independent than many House members. Unlike most Republicans, for example, he’s a vocal death-penalty opponent. Sheehan would get our endorsement over a generic Democrat. But his opponent, Shemia Fagan, a business lawyer and David Douglas School Board member, is one of the best first-time candidates we’ve ever seen. Three weeks after having her first baby, she showed up with detailed critique of Sheehan’s record, an astute analysis of the issues facing Oregon, and a compelling personal story of overcoming poverty. She also displays a blunt honesty that should be a model for veteran pols. “Taxes suck,” she told us. “Everybody hates paying taxes. But we need to do it.” 

What superpower would Fagan choose? “Time-travel, so I could talk to the greats of the past.”

Oregon House, District 52 (Hood River, Corbett and Sandy)

Mark Johnson (Republican)

One-term incumbent Mark Johnson is a home-builder, which means he understands how tough the economy has been, and a Hood River School Board member, which puts him in the K-12 crucible where escalating costs are annihilating school budgets. Johnson is a moderate who has worked with Democratic colleagues, including Rep. Chris Harker (D-Beaverton), to craft innovative school funding solutions. His opponent, Peter Nordbye, a retired Parkrose High principal, is running an admirably low-budget campaign, but he’s given constituents no reason to toss one of the most effective rookie lawmakers.

What superpower would Johnson choose? To make residents of Multnomah County see the world through the rest of the state’s eyes. 

More endorsements


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