The race for Oregon House District 52 is a close one.
Although Republican incumbent Patti Smith and Democratic challenger Suzanne VanOrman have very different ideas, strengths and weaknesses, we're comfortable saying either would serve East Clackamas County and Hood River County well.
In the end, our endorsement goes to Smith, who, in her first three terms in the House, has proven that she is in touch with the needs and issues of the district.
Not only does Smith know the issues of the district, but she is in a position to do something about those issues. Smith is chairwoman of the Agriculture/Natural Resources Committee, which allows her to shape the course of legislation those areas, which are very near and dear to her constituents' hearts.
She is also part of the Emergency Preparedness Committee and brought that body to Sandy to discuss ways to make the Mount Hood Corridor safer. She has held forums with local public safety officials to discuss emergency preparedness plans - something this part of the state hasn't effectively tackled yet. Smith also has worked to extend the safety corridor in Government Camp to prevent traffic fatalities on Highway 26's 'no man's land.'
The breadth of experience in the committees and topical panels she's had makes her extremely versatile. Smith serves on the Governor's Methamphetamine Task Force, Renewable Energy Working Group and ID Theft Working Group, among many others.
She is respected by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and works especially well with her Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Rick Metsger of Welches. Her ability to drum up bipartisan support led to the passage of the landmark anti-methamphetamine package she helped write. In this year's special session, she was able to introduce and pass Jessica's Law, which cracks down on sexual predators of children.
If we're just talking geography, Smith is a good pick. She's based out of nearby Corbett - a walk down the street compared with Hood River (VanOrman's base). If you attend any semi-important event in the Mount Hood area, you're likely to run into Smith. She's everywhere.
We are, however, concerned about the fact that Smith receives campaign contributions from some major corporations, such as Johnson and Johnson, Phillip Morris and Anheuser-Busch. We will be watching to make sure Smith votes with her constituents and not her contributors. We also would like to see Smith take a more active role in education reform.
Smith's opponent, VanOrman, would have a better handle on the education funding woes and how to solve them, with her lifetime of experience with Head Start public-private partnerships. The former Oregon City commissioner should have no trouble getting on an education committee. There would be a bit of a learning curve, but it wouldn't take long for VanOrman to begin pushing for education reform - the issue that has become the hottest in the election.
We also believe that VanOrman's business experience has made her exceptionally passionate about issues such as health care and prescription drug assistance. She wants to get more small businesses and uninsured Oregonians into a statewide purchasing pool, which would give them Costco-like purchasing power with prescription drugs.
It's unfortunate that two such well-qualified people are running against each other. Their skills, competencies and passions would be valuable at any level of government. In the end, Smith's proximity, breadth of experience and membership in the majority party make her the best choice for now.