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Schrader seeks support in Milwaukie

Narrow winner in 2010 contest now faces redrawn district including Milwaukie
by: GRADY WHEELER Mayor Jeremy Ferguson presented Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon City) with a Milwaukie pin after the U.S. House representative addressed his new constituents last month.

Addressing the Milwaukie City Council for the first time last month, U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon City) pledged to continue the support of Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) to remove the dam and restore a natural stream habitat near Kellogg Creek.

'We should be able to encourage that and hopefully support that,' Schrader said.

District realignments approved by the Oregon House this summer put Milwaukie and Happy Valley in Schrader's territory for voters in the 2012 election.

Mayor Jeremy Ferguson encouraged Schrader to put Milwaukie on his town-hall schedule and explore other ways that the city's goals align.

'Just don't forget about Milwaukie,' Ferguson said.

Schrader's support for Kellogg Dam removal is a coup for the city goal, especially since the project has been languishing for lack of funding and disagreements about project logistics. This summer through Kellogg Creek, city consultants Brown and Caldwell found a discrepancy of about 50,000 cubic yards of sediment between their sample and that of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The two city staffers who were working on the dam-removal project, Alex Campbell and Nicole West, both left their positions. Kenny Asher, the city's community development director, hasn't been able to find much time to work on the project between other big issues hitting the city such as light rail and potential North Industrial Area spin-off development.

'I'm trying to pick up the pieces as best I can,' Asher said.

2012 campaign

After Schrader beat Scott Bruun in the 2010 election by 15,000 votes and overcame freshman status, he's likely to have an easier time in 2012. In Schrader's favor, for example, is the fact that more Democratic voters historically turn out during presidential elections.

It could be more difficult for Schrader, however, campaigning in Milwaukie for the first time, and his new district's composition has more registered Republicans by losing geographical area in Portland.

It's also unclear as to who would be competitive against Schrader. Republican Party leaders say Bruun isn't likely to challenge Schrader again, although Bruun himself wasn't available for comment.

Filings as of last week show no Republican candidates stepping up to challenge Schrader, and gubernatorial challenger and former basketball star Chris Dudley said he wouldn't run. State Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Canby), has also won elections at the county level, but Kennemer has filed to retain his seat in the Oregon House.

Greg Leo, chief of staff for the Oregon Republican Party, says it's a good tactic for Schrader to stick with nonpartisan issues such as dam removal rather than campaign on his voting record with President Obama.

'If this 2012 election is a referendum on the Obama policies, then Schrader's in big trouble,' Leo said.

Paul Gage, Schrader's chief of staff, acknowledged that, over the next 14 months until the election, the congressman will spend extra time meeting his new constituents and supporting the issues that are important to them. Gage pointed out that the 2010 election was largely seen as a backlash against Obama, and Democrats lost seats in the Oregon Legislature, although Schrader managed to hold on.

'At the end of the day, these races will be decided on the candidates themselves and the issues they talk about rather than a referendum of national issues,' Gage said.

Public finance records show that Schrader had about $150,000 to spend in his campaign war chest as of June 30.

Back at last month's Milwaukie meeting, Schrader said it was an embarrassing time to be in Congress because of some of his compatriots on both sides of the aisle, but he accused pundits of playing up the acrimony, saying it's not as bad as they say.

'It's actually more collegial than some might see,' Schrader said.

Leo said that any of the local Republican leaders who have been elected to the Oregon Legislature are qualified to run against Schrader if they're interested in representing the state at the federal level.

Fred Thompson, who lost by about a three-to-two margin in the primary against Scott Bruun, has been mentioned as a likely candidate, but he did not return calls for comment.