While the race between House Speaker Karen Minnis and her Democratic opponent, Rob Brading, is of statewide interest, it is up to House District 49 voters to decide which candidate would best represent their community.
On that score, it is clear that Minnis, a Republican, has the experience necessary to be the most effective advocate for East Multnomah County. Minnis has represented the district - which extends from Portland's edge to Troutdale and takes in Fairview, Wood Village and parts of Gresham - for eight years now. Prior to that, she was legislative aide to her husband, John Minnis, an East County representative and senator. Minnis' vast knowledge of the legislative process would take years for a newcomer to acquire. That's the chief difference between Minnis and her opponent, whose assertive campaign has been fueled by the desire of many Democrats to topple Minnis from the speaker's post.
If Minnis were defeated, however, the balance of power wouldn't change in Salem. Republicans still would control the House, but East County would lose.
Minnis secures funding, ensures equity
The community benefits from Minnis' place in the legislative structure. She can point to an unrivaled ability to deliver on behalf of East County. She has secured funding for road projects, including the Northeast 223rd underpass in Fairview. She obtained $1.5 million to combat gangs in the Rockwood area. Minnis secured $100,000 in state funding for the proposed Gresham Center for the Arts and $150,000 for the Gresham-based Oregon Science and Technology Partnership.
State funding for East County, however, is only a small part of the equation. Of greater importance is Minnis' power to protect East County's interests, which often are overlooked regionally. One example came this year when Multnomah County commissioners proposed allocating $6.4 million to schools. Commissioners at first planned to award most of the money to Portland schools, ignoring the fact that half the county's schoolchildren - including Reynolds, Gresham-Barlow and Centennial students - live outside the Portland district. Minnis used the carrot and stick of additional state funding to persuade commissioners that East County must get its fair share.
Likewise, Minnis helped force Multnomah County finally to agree to transfer roads to Gresham. And it was Minnis who blocked the Port of Portland's plans for an intermodal rail yard in Troutdale.
Brading would start from scratch
As much as we like and respect Brading, who is executive director at MetroEast Community Media, we cannot get around the fact that he would enter the Legislature as a freshman representative in the minority party. It is a long and arduous climb from there to a position of any power, much less the speaker's office.
Certainly, there are times we disagree with Minnis, most recently when she failed to support civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. On balance, though, she has represented her district well and has been true to her constituents' wishes. It makes no sense for East County residents to trade her experience and seniority for someone who would start anew. House District 49 voters should re-elect Karen Minnis.