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Sadly, House District 49 campaign goes as expected

A few weeks ago - it already seems like months, considering the tiresome nature of this election - we warned readers that much of what they were about to hear in the Karen Minnis-Rob Brading election battle would be untrue.

It turns out that prediction was even more accurate than we might have thought. The race in House District 49 has established a new bar - a very low one - for quality political discussion.

The attacks are arriving in our mailboxes in such rapid-fire fashion that it's hard to know whose turn it is. One recent salvo generating widespread attention is a House Republican flier that sifts into Brading's past and uncovers the fact that he had a rough spell - 16 years ago - as executive director of a non-profit agency called Fund for Human Dignity. The short version of this story is that Brading was the first heterosexual director of the group, which provided services to gays and lesbians. The agency's employees rebelled over Brading's hiring, not because of anything he did, but because he was straight.

The agency ended up in bankruptcy a mere six months later, and Republicans are using that fact to question Brading's management credentials. But the reality is that Brading's experience with the Fund for Human Dignity nearly two decades ago is irrelevant to this election, and the GOP hit piece - titled, 'Why Didn't Rob Brading Tell Us?' - greatly distorts the facts of the matter.

Both parties use smear tactics

Distortion, however, is a bi-partisan talent, as Democrats and their allies amply prove with their own attack pieces against Minnis. A flier arriving in mailboxes on Friday proclaims that Karen Minnis is 'flooded with money from big polluters' and that she 'raked in an astonishing $219,913 (in campaign donations) from polluters in the last year alone.'

The flier's claims raise an obvious question for the fair-minded reader: Just who are these big polluters? A visit to the Web site listed on the pamphlet, candidatesforsale.com, is quite revealing. Among the dozens of so-called polluters are Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, Northwest Natural Gas, Safeway, Weyerhaeuser and the Oregon Auto Dealers Association. Since the vast majority of citizens use electricity and natural gas, eat groceries and drive cars, doesn't that make us all complicit in this conspiracy of the corporate polluters?

This whole campaign has gone past ugliness and into utter silliness. The fact that Rob Brading accepted an impossible job 16 years ago has nothing to do with his ability to shape public policy in Oregon in 2006. Karen Minnis is not in the pockets of corporate polluters - the Web site that's supposed to condemn her instead only proves her case.

Is anyone discussing the issues?

As we've noted before, the real question in this election is who would be the most effective representative for East County. We recommended Minnis because she can accomplish so much for the area. Without Minnis, a port-sponsored rail yard could be headed for Troutdale, the schools in this area would have a lower share of county money, Gresham never would have gotten control of its roads and we wouldn't have funds for gang prevention, the proposed arts center and transportation projects.

Those are legitimate reasons to vote for Minnis, but we also recognize that other people have different priorities and they believe Minnis has been slow to move, or even an obstructionist, on issues such as payday loans and prescription drugs.

What we all ought to agree upon, however, is that education, health care, the economy and taxes are the subjects citizens care about. That's where the debate should be focused. And all this other stuff that arrives in the mail each day? Put it where it belongs: in the garbage - or in a recycling bin if you don't want to be labeled a polluter.