INSIDE COUNTY POLITICS: Clackamas Could Create the Decider

By Peter Toll

This year’s legislature is still in hand-to-hand combat, politically speaking, as legislators jostle and flay to pass their favorite bills before July 6 adjournment while also positioning themselves for next year’s elections.

Lacking the three-fifths majority required to pass tax bills, House Republicans are holding hostage our schools, our roads, and our ability to invest in our future. The 60-member House needs one more Democratic vote to reach the three-fifths requirement to raise the revenues required to fund infrastructure improvements, improve education, fund single payer health care, and fulfill our obligation to retirees. When Republicans were in control a few years ago they were thinking of moments just like this when they dropped the traditional majority rules rule – except for tax bills.

True to form, House Republicans are voting (or not) as a bloc to exacerbate Oregon’s fiscal problems by refusing to modernize an outdated tax system that favors big business. Just one more vote is needed.

Will self-described “moderate” Republicans serving our county — such as Bill Kennemer of Oregon City in HD 39 or Mark Johnson of Hood River in HD 52 — step up and over the fence for fair tax laws? Maybe when hell freezes over.

Clackamas County has part or all of 10 House seats, only half are in Democratic hands. Could the next Democratic victory come from our county? Could the state’s future, highlighted by tax fairness, be in our hands? Replace Rep. Kennemer or Rep. Johnson? Maybe replace Julie Parrish of West Linn in HD 37? Replace any one of these who are now blocking tax reform, and Clackamas County could lead the way for a brighter future for Oregon. Our fate is in our hands.

Barring unforeseen complications, new Democratic Reps. Mark Meek (HD 40) of Gladstone, Janelle Bynum (HD 51) of Happy Valley and Karin Power (HD 41) of Milwaukie are solid for re-election.

That can also be said for veteran Reps. Ann Lininger (HD 38) of Lake Oswego and Jeff Reardon (HD 48) of outer Multnomah County representing a big chunk of unincorporated Clackamas County.

So where do we get the one seat needed for the House and just one seat needed for the Senate?

It is rumored Rep. Johnson is looking at the state Senate seat in the north end of the county, as incumbent Chuck Thomsen (District 26) is said to be thinking twice about running for re-election. That would open his seat in HD 52. Democrat Mark Reynolds of Hood River, whom Johnson beat last year, is itching for a shot at an open seat. If he wins, there’s our sixth seat.

Also said to be mulling retirement is Rep. Kennemer. He has served in the House, the Senate and the county commission and, insiders proclaim, is tired of being in the minority and not getting anything accomplished. Ever. Could his seat go Democratic? Several people have expressed interest.

Democrat Charles Gallia of Carver, who ran against Kennemer last year, is looking elsewhere. He’s giving a very, very hard look at Republican Alan Olsen’s state Senate (District 20) seat as it appears Olsen is getting tired of beating his head against the proverbial wall over and over in vain. (See Kennemer frustration above.)

Gallia, one of Oregon’s most unsung experts on health care legislation, could just be the Senate seat that Clackamas County needs to give the Senate a level of expertise in that field which has been pretty much ignored, as well as appropriate funding for badly needed services.

Let’s not forget Parrish, the soccer mom, small businesswoman, antagonist to public schools, and victor several times in a swing district, according to voter registration. She is known as something of a prickly character and will probably attract another good opponent.

Electoral politics has always been something of a contact sport. There doesn’t appear anything on the horizon here in our county to indicate people will be softening their blows very soon.

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Peter Toll is a 28-year resident of Clackamas County who is long active in Democratic politics.