By Peter Toll
While the Big Money Goons have already made their ugly mark in Clackamas County, their newest target is an incumbent Republican legislator who represents a chunk of the southern end of our county.
Forty percent of Rep. Vic Gilliam’s House District 18 is in Clackamas County. The Silverton resident is also chair of the Marion County Republican Party. Those tea party-dominated Marion Repubs chose not to endorse him for re-election. Too liberal.
Enter the historically biggest funder of Republicans and related bad policy initiatives in our state. Loren Parks is a former Oregonian now residing in the charming Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada. He gave $75,000 to Gilliam’s primary opponent, David Darnell, an electrician who lives in Hubbard. Darnell is a political novice. Right on his heels is Andrew Miller, Oregon’s current Republican godfather, with another $25,000 to Darnell. That’s 100,000 bucks. Like that.
Not good news for Gilliam. Figuring he had no primary fight, Gilliam has given $500 to neighboring Rep. Betty Koop’s campaign, noting she’s a decent person and party shouldn’t matter. Komp, of Woodburn, is a Democrat.
But it’s not giving money away to Democrats that got Gilliam in trouble with the right wing. They’re after him for several ideological reasons. Here are the top two:
- He voted in favor of the law which allows undocumented workers to drive cars in Oregon legally. He was the only House Republican to do so. The right wingers are challenging that new law with a ballot measure in November. (We’ll address that down the road.)
- Knowing that many of his constituents are poor, Gilliam voted in favor of the Oregon Health Plan, along with many Democrats. His GOP enemies equate this to “voting for Oregon’s version of Obamacare.” How dare he be so disloyal to the profitably high capitalistic standards enjoyed by health insurance companies?
This conscientious Republican committed two major sins, and the right wing is not waiting for a third strike and you’re out. They want him out now.
Darnell has the ideological pedigree the big boys like. As is their wont, they’re doing their best to buy this election. That $100,000 could just be the beginning.
(The latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling which removed the overall donation limitation on federal candidates is nothing new in Oregon. Our Supreme Court said the same thing some time ago, even allowing corporations to donate directly in state or local races. Anyone can donate as much as they want; no limitations whatsoever. Parks and Miller are well aware of this unique “elections for sale” authorization by the Oregon court.)
Meanwhile, Aurora City Councilman Scott Mills’s eyes are rolling. He’s the Democratic nominee in District 18. Never mind him, say the Republicans, we’ve got a big registration edge ,so he doesn’t count.
Mills is now enduring one of the oldest adages in the Book of Politics: always expect the unexpected.
The money didn’t come in for him, but for Gilliam’s primary opponent some 50 days before the election. Gilliam had $26,000 and change in the bank when all this came down, and Darnell had $500. Yep, just three digits.
Mills is unopposed in his own primary and now has no idea who his GOP opponent will be in November. Instead of continuing to go after Gilliam, Mills now emphasizes directly why he is better for the sprawling rural district.
Does Mills have big money angels in the wings waiting to shower their manna on him? Nope. No chance. No such thing.
Could he win the race? It’s somewhat more possible now. If Gilliam loses the primary, some of his supporters may sit on their hands or throw their votes to Mills. Ditto if Darnell loses.
Who would Mills prefer to face in the fall? You’ll have to ask him via www.scottmillsforhd18.com. You might want to send him some money while you’re at it. Better yet, volunteer to help him. He just might pull off the upset.
You can read more about Loren Parks and his goal to repeal the driver card law here.
Peter Toll has lived in Clackamas County more than 25 years, all the while active in Clackamas and Oregon Democratic activities. He is an independent financial advisor with a progressive perspective. You can reach him at email@example.com.