Clackamas County will seat four new legislators in January with the replacement of Representatives Brent Barton, Shemia Fagan, John Davis, and Kathleen Taylor. Taylor is advancing to the Senate, and the other three are retiring.
Clackamas has 10 members in the lower house, five Democrats and five Republicans, and five senators. But Democrat Taylor marks the only change in the Senate as Democrat Diane Rosenbaum is retiring. Taylor beat John Sweeney in the primary and there is no Republican candidate in Senate District 21, which includes Milwaukie and part of Southeast Portland.
Replacing Taylor, who did one term in the House, will most likely be Milwaukie City Councilor Karin Power, a Democrat. She was unopposed in the House District 41 primary and faces Republican Tim McMenamin (trying for a third straight election) in November. This seat has long been held by Democrats, and Power should retain it for the progressives. She amassed 10,338 primary votes to McMenamin’s 2,747. He is a pharmacist. She is an attorney.
In southernmost House District 18, which stretches from Aurora way down into Marion County, incumbent Republican Vic Gilliam is being challenged by high school teacher Tom Kane. Gilliam is seriously ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease. This is a very Republican district. Democrat Kane is active in the Oregon Education Association and is a key signature-gatherer and speaker for Initiative Petition 28. If the initiative is successful in November, it would add new taxes to those businesses with Oregon sales exceeding $25 million annually.
North and to the west, House District 26 has a handful of precincts in Wilsonville while reaching well into Washington County. Democrat Ray Lister will face Republican attorney Richard Vial to succeed incumbent John Davis, who is stepping down. This was once considered a Republican stronghold, but changes in voter registration have reduced the GOP voter edge down to less than 500. Vial beat former Rep. Matt Wingard and John Boylston in the primary, and Lister beat Patrick Whewall by a 3:1 ratio. Lister, a union organizer, is a long-time Wilsonville resident.
Mark Meek, the Democrat who beat Terry Gibson and Steve Cade in the primary of House District 40, should be favored over the Republican, Evan Tekorious, to step into the shoes of outgoing Brent Barton. That district starts in Gladstone, where Meek lives, and rolls down into parts of Oregon City, taking in some unincorporated territory, too. Meek, a realtor, got 42.04 percent of the primary vote in this Democratic-leaning district.
The fourth newcomer to the legislature could well be Democrat Janelle Bynum, an engineer by training but currently a business woman in House District 51, which encompasses Happy Valley, unincorporated Clackamas and parts of east Multnomah County. Bynum beat Randy Sherman in the primary to succeed retiring Shemia Fagan by 2:1. Her opponent in this swing district is Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez DeRemer; she was unopposed in the primary. DeRemer is no slouch, and Bynum will have her hands full.
Attorney Paul Carlos Southwick will work for every possible vote to take out Republican Julie Parrish in House District 37, which covers West Linn, easternmost Tualatin, and the unincorporated area in between. Parrish has been hard to beat, despite the animosity she generates from both Democrats and Republicans in Salem. Democrat Southwick, also enjoying a fresh registration bulge, picked up 6,934 votes in the primary compared to Parrish’s 5,207. Both were unopposed.
Next door in House District 38, Lake Oswego and part of Southwest Portland, Democrat Ann Lininger is favored to keep her seat in November. She and her Republican opponent, Patrick Klotz, had no opposition in the primary where she outpolled him 10,925 to 3,133.
Lininger is rising fast in Democratic politics after being appointed to the seat in 2103. The former Clackamas County commissioner is proving herself an apt dealmaker as co-chair of the legislative committee working on implementation of the marijuana initiative.
A good Democratic primary fight in northernmost House District 52 between Mark Reynolds and Walt Trandum saw Reynolds prevailing by a 3:1 margin for the chance to tackle incumbent Republican Mark Johnson. That district goes from Hood River in the east, where Reynolds lives, all the way down to east Multnomah County and takes in Sandy and the Mt. Hood communities, where Trandum lives. The Democrats have mended fences and plan to work together to beat Johnson in November.
Incumbent Democrat Jeff Reardon should be considered a walk-in against George (Sonny) Yellott in November to retain his seat in House District 48, which has a hefty unincorporated Clackamas chunk and a larger east Multnomah County piece. Reardon has put a thumping on Yellott before, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be doing it again this year.
The tenth district in the county is House District 39, currently owned by Republican Bill Kennemer. That district comprises rural Oregon City, Canby, and parts of southern Clackamas County down to Estacada. When he hasn’t been serving in the Oregon House, Kennemer has served in the Oregon Senate and has been a Clackamas County commissioner. He faces newcomer Charles Gallia, a Democrat. Gallia has an uphill trudge to knock Kennemer out of the legislature.
Importantly, though, no Republicans in Clackamas County are getting a free ride by being unopposed. Democrats hope to improve the 5-5 partisan split by gaining at least one if not more seats. Given the swing in voter registration and lackluster support for the GOP presidential candidate, this could be a key year for Democrats in the county and across the state.