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HD30: Shawn Lindsay is best bet

Every two years, voters get a chance to assess who they've elected to the Oregon House of Representatives based on the lawmaker's accomplishments, personal growth and vision for the future.

And, every two years, voters get to test the political waters with a challenger from another party in the general election.

Each cycle, all those candidates are invited to the News-Times office for a chance at convincing us their vision is the best.

For an incumbent seeking another term, the conversation takes on the color of a performance review. For the challenger, it's a job interview.

In 2010, with incumbent state Rep. David Edwards declining to seek another term, voters in House District 30 had a choice between two newcomers, with Republican Shawn Lindsay and Democrat Doug Ainge vying for the seat.

We chose Ainge that cycle because the longtime Banks High School teacher struck us as closer fit for the district, which covers northern Hillsboro, North Plains and Banks. Voters chose Lindsay.

This time around, we think voters should send Lindsay back for another term.

Why the flip-flop?

In part, because this year's Democratic candidate is not nearly as strong as Ainge was in 2010.

But mainly this is a strong vote of confidence for Lindsay.

We disagree with Lindsay on several issues, but over the years we've evaluated a lot of candidates during these biennial rituals and can't think of another that has shown stronger growth as a leader.

In the last cycle, Lindsay campaigned largely along partisan lines, even tossing out a few out-there notions that were being kicked around as ideas by the state GOP. But something happened when Lindsay went to Salem.

According to people who worked with him in the capitol, the Hillsboro lawyer quickly tacked away from the partisanship that marked his first campaign. Lindsay said his work on legislative redistricting, a monumental task that led him to form close working relationships with state Rep. Chris Garrett (D-Lake Oswego) and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, then head of the Oregon senate Democrats.

“We walked through walls and got it done,” Lindsay said.

It’s true. Not since 1911 had the legislature brokered a deal for new legislative boundaries that was held up by the courts.

Lindsay also touted his support for enterprise zones and legislation offering flexibility to colleges for handing out credit for work experience.

Lindsay supports light rail and is open to broad tax reform, including a sales tax, if it’s part of a package that builds in a spending controls.

And while Lindsay’s party is throwing around tough language about PERS reform, with some members even suggesting that the state should tackle the benefits granted to Tier 1 and Tier 2 PERS employees, Lindsay says he’s not interested in undoing contracts.

“I want them to get what they bargained for,” Lindsay said.

He’s equally deferential on abortion. Though he’s pro-life, Lindsay said he wasn’t interested in passing legislation on the topic. “I don’t think it’s a state representative issue,” he said.

Unlike two years ago, Lindsay doesn’t speak in sound bites.

He decried cuts to the higher education budget and when asked where increased funding could be found in the state’s budget, he pointed to the Department of Human Services, saying by controlling costs a bit more tightly, it could be possible to squeeze more money for education.

With additional spending in higher education, Lindsay wants to put in place sensible reforms, such as pairing students with faculty advisors and implementing computer course-tracking software, that encourage students to complete their degrees on time — combating a hidden cost to gaining a diploma.

Lindsay’s opponent, Joe Gallegos, stepped into the race late, replacing the previous Democratic candidate Adriana Canas who bowed out in July.

A popular professor emeritus from the University of Portland, Gallegos has a great resume. He’s an Air Force vet who has put in 20 years volunteering with Catholic Charities and helping Latinos (both he and Lindsay speak Spanish).

But Gallegos isn’t ready to go to Salem. In our endorsement interview, the Hillsboro Democrat routinely said “everything’s on the table,” when it comes to tax reform. But what does that mean? We asked him if he’d support lowering the capital gains tax rate (a move Lindsay supports, but we oppose): “Everything’s on the table.” He talked about ending tax breaks for the wealthy but couldn’t identify a specific tax credit he’d eliminate. He admitted he wasn’t up to speed on PERS reform but claimed “we’ll get through this just fine.”

Gallegos’s web site and campaign literature are just as vague, offering nothing more than blurry boilerplate about school funding as a top priority. It’s always a top priority in Salem.

We urge Gallegos to get up to speed on the issues while voters to keep the incumbent on the job. Rep. Lindsay passed this cycle’s performance review with flying colors.