Ballots go in the mail beginning Friday, Oct. 19, for the Nov. 6 general election. The deadline for voter registration passed Oct. 16. Here are our selected picks in contested races and issues. See our recent news stories, Slant comments and letters for more information, along with the Voters’ Pamphlet and websites for candidates and measures. We’ll have more stories next week. Campaign finance information can be found at ORESTAR on the Oregon secretary of state’s website.
President of the U.S.
It’s up to America’s women to march to the polls and loudly cast their votes to defeat Mitt Romney and his party. Although it fluctuates slightly, the “gender gap” is the widest margin of victory that pollsters consistently see for Obama. For good reason. The Republican attacks on women come from every perspective: social, sexual, economic, educational and, of course, judicial. Women really have no choice but to fight back at the ballot box, hopefully re-electing Barack Obama.
Peter DeFazio (D)
DeFazio faces a challenge from Art Robinson again, the same out-of-state hedge-fund millionaire financed wingnut who thinks a little radiation is good for you. Congressman DeFazio pisses us off sometimes. His forest plan hasn’t made anyone happy and his position on coal is a little more nuanced than just plain “No” — it’s more in the “clean coal” camp, so he’s pissing off Oregon’s enviros as well. But he is unafraid to stand up and take a position, whether it’s on the House floor or in person, and he’s smarter and saner than his opponent by far. Vote DeFaz.
Oregon Supreme Court
A powerful range of experience and a judicial temperament make Richard Baldwin clearly superior to Nena Cook for the Supreme Court. He’s gone from legal aid to the Multnomah County Circuit Court (elected 2002 and 2008), earning the endorsements of former governors Barbara Roberts and Ted Kulongoski plus Supreme Court Justice Robert Durham, whom he would succeed. Cook’s exaggerations of her experience concern us — so inappropriate for a Supreme Court candidate.
Oregon Court of Appeals, Pos. 6
James C. Egan
James Egan is a sitting judge on the Linn County Circuit Court and his private law career focused on representing injured people in workers comp and personal injury cases. He also served as a JAG attorney, including a tour in the Middle East. The Court of Appeals needs members who have worked as trial court judges.
Secretary of State
Kate Brown (D)
The few moderate Republicans left in Oregon politics are so eager for new leadership that they’re willing to throw an outstanding, dedicated and highly experienced Democratic woman under the bus in this election. That’s probably not surprising. It’s good that Knute Buehler, a Bend physician, is stepping up as a moderate Republican, but he and his wealthy backers and the conservative press are irresponsible in their target. Kate Brown does have a serious political problem; she hates to ask anyone for more than $250 in contributions. That should be a plus in a rational world.
State Attorney General
Ellen Rosenblum (D)
No brainer. She waged a tough primary, won handily and was appointed by the governor to fill John Kroger’s unexpired term. After 36 years of experience as a judge, federal prosecutor and private practice attorney, she aspired to be Oregon’s first woman attorney general and she should win handily again.
Ted Wheeler (D)
Another no-brainer. This is Oregon’s chief financial officer who manages investment of state money, the sale of state bonds and helps oversee management of state lands. Wheeler has done such a good job with the state’s money after his appointment by the governor that he deserves our continued support. Oregon is lucky to have him.
State Labor Commissioner
Organized labor is supporting Avakian, and business generally considers him approachable. He’s done a good job for four years. That’s good enough for us.
Ballot Measure 77
(Response to disasters)
Oregon seems so quiet, disaster-wise, compared to the Midwest’s tornados or Cali’s earthquakes, but we do have a strong potential for killer quakes, tsunamis, floods and volcanic eruptions. Measure 77 also notes wars and acts of terrorism as disasters that need money, quickly, to help deal with them. Measure 77 would, among other things, let the governor make initial decisions, such as temporarily allocating money from lottery funds and the general fund for disaster response, without legislative approval.
Ballot Measure 78
(Changes terminology in Constitution)
This seemingly benign measure actually has a dash of progressivism. In addition to amending constitutional language (replacing “departments” of government to “branches” of government), it will replace gender-biased wording (“he” and “him” for references to the secretary of state) with gender-neutral language.
Ballot Measure 79
(Bans real estate transfer taxes)
The National Association of Realtors, those folks who refer to themselves always with a capital letter, “Realtor,” bring you Measure 79, which would constitutionally ban new taxes and fees on real estate sales. The Realtors, state and national, have poured almost $5 million into the campaign to ban something the state already bans. Right now, local governments can’t enact a real estate transfer tax, though the Legislature could do so in the future. Opponents say a real estate transfer tax could be a future lifeline and we should leave the option out there. We agree.
Ballot Measure 80
(Oregon Cannabis Tax Act)
For decades now, we’ve been throwing money down the toilet trying to keep Americans from consuming marijuana, and those billions of dollars have gotten the U.S. pretty much nowhere. For years, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has reported that it’s easier for 12- to 17-year-olds to buy pot, a prohibited substance, than it is to buy beer, a regulated substance. Perhaps this measure isn’t the word-for-word pro-regulation bill that we would have written, but it’s a far cry from today’s sad state of affairs. And if the state ends up having to back down from a legal battle, it’s not the end of the world. At least the voters have spoken.
Ballot Measure 81
It seems weird that EW would be against a pro-environment measure, but several groups that originally supported the commercial gillnetting ban no longer support their measure. Gillnets are a very effective way of catching fish, some say too effective when it comes to the Columbia River’s salmon and other species. Gov. Kitzhaber has come up with a solution to the problem that eliminates gillnets from the mainstem of the Columbia River while allowing their use in select off-channel sites. Let’s give Kitzhaber’s compromise proposal a shot.
Ballot Measure 82
(Authorizes private casinos)
Don’t let the slick commercials about The Grange “family-friendly” casino — promoting an amendment to the state Constitution that lifts the ban on non-Indian reservation casinos in Oregon — fool you into thinking it will be a benevolent tax boon for the state. A “yes” vote would be a devastating blow to Oregon’s tribal populations, who, already under financial duress, will find their much-needed casino profits in competition with the private sector. The private sector (and primary investor) in this case is the Canadian company, the Clairvest Group Inc., which could funnel profits straight out of the state (and country). Three weeks before the election, casino backers dropped their more than $6 million dollar campaign saying “not enough Oregon voters are ready to add a private casino to the state’s gaming options.”
Ballot Measure 83
(Authorizes Multnomah Co. casino)
In addition to Measure 82, Measure 83 specifically authorizes the privately owned Wood Village casino (The Grange), and also mandates a chunk of its revenue must be dedicated to state funds. Backers of the measure tout that it will pay back 25 percent in gaming revenues, which, at face value seems generous, but when compared to the 84 percent the lottery pays the state, it looks stingy, especially considering the investors projected annual profits are over $400 million.
Ballot Measure 84
(Eliminates inheritance tax)
The pro-small farms view initiative supporters have painted is nice, but it turns out this measure to phase out the inheritance tax already applies to all farms worth less than $7.5 million. If this law passes, it’s a tax cut to the very wealthy at a time when the state is struggling to take in enough revenue for essential services.
Ballot Measure 85
(Corporate kicker for K-12 education)
Oregon’s corporate kicker is quite the loophole, sending excess tax revenue more than 2 percent above projections back to corporations instead of investing it in schools or saving it for a rainy day. Measure 85 would close that loophole and direct tax dollars to stay in the General Fund to aid schools or other projects.
State Rep. District 7
Fergus McLean (D)
Roseburg Republican Bruce Hanna is seeking his fifth term in District 7, which covers southern Lane County and northern Douglas County. Hanna’s political machinery is generating nearly $500,000 in contributions, mostly from timber, mining, pharmaceutical, oil and insurance PACs, including $5,000 directly from Koch Industries. He even has $25,000 from the American Beverage Association (he is, after all, a soft drink distributor). We see Hanna’s campaign is reimbursing him for more than $1,500 in airline tickets (he’s not flying around his district).
We admire retired forester Fergus McLean of Dexter for standing up against this guy, as Sara Byers did in 2010 (getting a third of the votes), because lock-step Republicans focused on perpetuating a fossil-fuel economy and clear-cutting forests are the dinosaurs in our political system. The times are changing, even in this Republican-leaning district. McLean is a smart guy, involved in the Occupy movement and working on watershed issues, foreclosure reforms and sustainable forest practices. We predict he will get thousands of votes even without raising money or advertising. Hanna’s big war chest, meanwhile, is being doled out to help other Republican legislative campaigns.
State Rep. District 8
Paul Holvey (D)
Unlike many bemoaned incumbents, four-term State Rep. Paul Holvey has a record of getting things done: He sponsored key legislation banning field burning in the Willamette Valley, he is a consumer protection champion and he is the sole vocal supporter of a sales tax that would benefit public schools. His opponent is Aaron Baker, a Union Pacific Railroad engineer taking his first stab at public office and running on a “let’s-eliminate-most-taxes-and-shrink-government” platform. Baker would stop income and property taxes and replace them with a consumer tax. Baker is the self-described part-time journalist who declared in his “No Sugar Coated News” YouTube series that the Hult Center is a haven for communists.
State Rep. District 11
Phil Barnhart (D)
Incumbent Phil Barnhart’s stance as a pro-schools, anti-tax-loophole Democrat fits well in District 11, plus he’s one of the few people in Salem who really understands Oregon’s tax system and how to fix it. Second-time Republican challenger Kelly Lovelace aims to improve the district by cutting regulations and lowering taxes. We’re going with Barnhart.
State Rep. District 12
John Lively (D)
Democratic Rep. Terry Beyer is not seeking re-election and two Springfield men are battling it out in a race that could upset the evenly divided Oregon House. Both Democrat John Lively and Republican Joe Pishioneri are well-known in the community and the race could be close, so remarkably big bucks are flowing in, particularly to Pishioneri from timber, mining and business interests, both locally and nationally. If you like the politics of the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party, Pishioneri is your guy. We prefer the more forward-thinking Lively, and his moderate but progressive values line up more closely with Springfield in this century. Beyer backs Lively. Also, Pishioneri’s campaign was disturbing from the beginning with its deceptive push-polling, and it hasn’t gotten much better. His misguided and negative campaign with its irrelevant and erroneous statements reflects on his judgment and credibility.
State Rep. District 13
Nancy Nathanson (D)
Democrat Nancy Nathanson is facing perpetual candidate and karaoke regular Mark Callahan in the race for District 13 (that would be Oregon’s District 13, which is most of north and east Eugene, not the one that the rest of Panem thought was destroyed in The Hunger Games). Callahan, a Republican this time around, ran for president earlier this year; he is anti-abortion, anti-plastic bag ban and seems to think saving spotted owls is a scam. Nathanson has scored well on the Oregon League of Conservation Voters’ (OLCV) scorecard (87 percent in 2011, down from her high of 95 percent in 2007) and got the thumbs up from education groups, gay rights groups, transportation and pro-choice groups. We give her a thumbs up, too.
State Rep. District 14
Val Hoyle (D)
This election has a bunch of no-brainers and in this race Val Holye is the easy pick. The most familiar endorsement on her opponent Dwight Coon’s list is the dude who cheerfully tells us that “Eggs are cheaper in the country and so are cars, trucks, motorhomes and trailers” on local TV commercials. The former Junction City mayor’s endorsements also include pro-pesticide Oregonians for Food and Shelter and Oregon Right to Life. Coon provides a link to the anti-EmX Our Money Our Transit (which he typos as Your Transit). While we still think Hoyle, and fellow Dems Holvey, Nathanson and Barnhart, were wrong to endorse Andy Stahl against Pete Sorenson in the county commissioners’ race earlier this year, we also think that Hoyle’s done good things for Oregon in her time in office, like being ahead of the game on health care reform and being pro-education. And she has a decent rating on environmental issues from the OLCV.
Lane County Circuit Court Judge, Pos. 7
Alan Leiman (write-in)
After interviewing all four candidates for this position, we’re impressed at the quality of the contenders and optimistic for the future of this court. We’re again endorsing Alan Leiman (he ran and lost against Debra Vogt in 2006), in part because of his broad socio-political views of the less fortunate tiers of this community. He was the only candidate to even mention “restorative justice.” He has experience as an advocate and a judge, now serving as municipal court judge in Veneta besides running a private practice that focuses on representing employees in compensation-related cases in state and federal courts. Leiman is unlikely to receive a political appointment, the principal avenue to judgeships in Oregon, so this write-in election is an unusual opportunity. Conversely, Jay McAlpin, whose error caused this crazy campaign, is likely to be appointed again when another vacancy occurs.
Springfield Measure 20-195
(Five-year jail & cops levy)
If significant decreases in crime count for anything, then vote “yes” for this renewal of the 2006 five-year levy that partly funds Springfield jail operations and police services. According to the city manager’s office, since 2006 Springfield burglaries have decreased by 54 percent, theft by 30 percent, car theft by 74 percent and forgery by 70 percent. It should be noted that this levy might increase property taxes by 3 percent or more — but what’s 3 percent when you don’t have to replace your stolen car?
Emerald PUD Measure 20-196
This measure has the potential to resolve long-standing problems in which more than 700 households are customers of EPUD but are outside the political boundaries of the utility. Boundary mistakes were made when the district was formed, and service lines have been extended over the years in this largely rural and suburban district. These households cannot vote on EPUD ballot measures or serve on the EPUD board. We’ve detected some frustration from these customers who might not otherwise care about EPUD politics but now see that the utility needs reforming.
Eugene Measure 20-197
(Bonds to fix streets, bike projects)
We like what the 2008 street repair bond did for Eugene, cutting into the backlog of streets in disrepair and improving some of Eugene’s worst offending stretches of roadway. Extending the bond would add 74 more miles of clearly identified streets to the “fixed” list and do so without raising taxes beyond the previous bond measure.
Eugene Measure 20-198
(Advisory on corporate personhood)
The Citizens United decision left a huge hole in election-related transparency, and that void is one that only a constitutional amendment can remedy. A vote for this measure is a call for Congress to act, nothing more, nothing less.
Willamalane Parks Meas. 20-199
(Bonds for parks, trails)
This measure supports clean water, parks, hiking trails and the sort of recreation voters like. Willamalane has been responsible for skate parks, playgrounds and natural areas and needs this money to do more good work.
Lane County Measure 20-200
The conservative majority on the Lane County Commission and its county administrator have been less-than-stellar lately but the housekeeping amendments are fine and, like the other county measures, chosen because they are noncontroversial.
Lane County Measure 20-201
(Repeal of Sect. 8 of charter)
EW’s a little wary of anything that smacks of moving the county away from working with local governments like Eugene and Springfield, but we’re told this section is just a repetition of the state law that controls intergovernmental agreements. Section 8 of the charter authorizes the county to function in cooperation with other local governments and to transfer county functions to and assume functions of other local governments. But the county says mechanisms for intergovernmental dealings are already in place under Oregon law, rendering Sect. 8 meaningless.
Lane County Measure 20-202
(Repeal of charter sections)
This measure clarifies election dates. It doesn’t change them; it just clarifies the language by tying elections to presidential and non-presidential elections years. Go for it.
Eugene City Council Ward 2
Veteran progressive Betty Taylor hasn’t ratcheted it down a single notch during her four terms on the council, and her refusal to compromise her values while standing up for the environment, human rights and a sensible tax policy has caused the far right to come after her by funding her opponent, Juan Carlos Valle. Seeking to unbalance the 4-4 liberal-conservative split on the council, conservatives are dumping money into Valle’s campaign. We like a councilor who scares them that much.
Emerald PUD Board positions
Ron Davis, Katherine Schacht, Laurie Smart
With the help of then congressman Jim Weaver, the Emerald People’s Utility District began serving rural and suburban areas in 1983 as one of the most progressive and innovative public utilities in the nation. People still love this homegrown utility, but in recent years EPUD has suffered from bad investments, and internal strife on the board and with management. Embattled General Manager Frank Lambe is retiring and three out of the five board positions are on the ballot, with no shortage of good candidates. We think Ron Davis in District 1 (Cottage Grove), Katherine Schacht in District 4 (Coburg) and Laurie Smart in District 5 (Marcola) are the best choices to get the utility back on track and restore the transparency and accountability that has been so lacking.
Davis is wanting back on the board after serving from 1981 to 1994 and wants to restore the core values that made EPUD “an award-winning and efficient utility.” Incumbent Schacht is an dedicated longtime board member whose outspoken demands for accountability have led to what we see as retaliation from Lambe and others in the form of ethics complaints and other petty squabbles. The utility needs Schacht’s experience and tough love going forward. Smart has been attending board meetings for the past two years and has an impressive understanding of the history, finances and challenges facing this board and utilities around the country. She runs a consulting firm that specializes in utility procedures and processes. The incumbent she is seeking to replace, Penny Eymann Jordan, has served the board well for eight years, but Smart shows exceptional leadership skills that the board will need in the years ahead.