When it comes to races involving incumbents, we employ a two-part test. First, has the person in office done a good job? And, second, has the challenger shown he or she can do it better? In that light the Oregon House District 29 race offers a clear choice.
Chuck Riley didn't knock the socks off anyone in Salem during his first term in the House (he finished in the bottom third of Willamette Week newspaper's biennial rating of metro-area lawmakers) but few freshmen make much of a mark, particularly those in the minority party. Rather, Riley hunkered down, figured out how the game was played and set his sights on a few modest proposals. While he didn't make any headlines, he did host a bevy of town hall meetings, showed up at countless local government forums and seemed genuinely interested in what District 29 voters wanted out of Salem.
That record, while a bit underwhelming, is enough in this contest. While Riley hasn't set the world on fire, his opponent hasn't bothered to do his homework.
Republican Terry Rilling's standard response to questions about state government is: I don't know, but I'll find out and then I'll talk real loud.
Rilling is campaigning on his two-year record as mayor of Cornelius, an odd strategy given the turmoil he's not only overseen, but helped produce.
As mayor, Rilling alienated city council members, publicly berated top city administrators and flouted state public meetings laws. There is something likeable about a politician who is completely candid, and we give Rilling credit for that. We also believe that his desire to stand up for the little guy is genuine. But his 'my way or the highway' attitude achieved, at best, mixed results in Cornelius. It would be a disaster in Salem, where power comes from an ability to get along.