Two newcomers are facing off for the Democrat nomination to represent Lake Oswego in the Oregon House, giving voters a choice between a local education champion and a young attorney with state-level ties.
Both Linda Brown, a member of the Lake Oswego School Board, since 2001, and Chris Garrett, an attorney with Perkins Coie in Portland, seek to replace Rep. Greg Macpherson in House District 38.
Macpherson is currently running for attorney general after six years in the Legislature. His accomplishments include reforming PERS, the state's benefit system for public retirees, crafting Measure 49 to tweak Oregon's land use system and helping create the state restrictions that crack down on meth production.
The winner in the May 20 primary for House District 38 will face Republican challenger Stephen Griffith in November.
Both Brown and Garrett are new to the campaign trail.
Brown is popular in local circles, with strong ties to schools and the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce. She is a past president of the Blue Heron Neighborhood Association and also serves on the board of the Lakewood Center for the Arts. She also serves on the Legislative Policy Committee for the Oregon School Boards Association.
Garrett is a native of the district, born and raised in Southwest Portland and no stranger to the Oregon Legislature. He is a former senior policy adviser to Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and also worked as a legislative assistant to Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin. He offers a similar mix of legal expertise and state-level contacts that were the hallmarks of service for Macpherson.
Both candidates say health care, education and the environment are top priorities. Both would revamp the state's revenue system by closing tax loopholes, ending the corporate kicker and boosting the corporate minimum tax.
But facing off in a debate at Lakeridge High School on Monday, each showed a unique focus.
Brown steered most issues - from talk about health care, mental health services and business development - back to education. She says more resources in schools would improve business opportunities in Oregon, bolster environmental policy and help avert social crisis through early intervention.
She favors a synergistic approach to policy making and says stakeholder input on ideas, tempered with local controls, are key to moving Oregon ahead.
'We need the kind of collaborative style that I've been using to make sure our schools - every single one of them - are exceptional,' Brown said.
Garrett offered numbers and research as a starting point for solving state problems. He believes many of the things that once made Oregon a national leader are in jeopardy: Chiefly its formerly tough environmental laws to its nationally recognized land-use system.
Garrett wants to see a renewed commitment to Oregon's culture as a green state. He believes its economic future lies in so-called green-collar jobs. He wants new revenue streams to revive solid but struggling programs like the Oregon Health Plan so the state can move ahead.
'Mostly what I think the Legislature needs is fresh thinking, revitalization and people who believe in its mission,' he said.
'It means not being afraid to propose real solutions, even if they're going to be a hard sell the first time, or the first five times, or the first nine times,' such as sales tax.
Both Brown and Garrett have drawn plenty of support for their campaigns.
Backing Brown are six state representatives, Congresswoman Darlene Hooley and much of the Lake Oswego City Council and school board.
Brown also earns accolades from three state-level education associations as well as a nurse's association and several women's groups and trade unions. A total of $55,000 is reported by a Lake Oswego-based committee called Friends of Linda Brown.
About $75,000 is reported by a Portland-based committee headed by former attorney general spokesman Kevin Neely for Garrett.
Garrett also has numerous endorsements. They include Courtney, outgoing Attorney General Hardy Myers and former Secretary of State Phil Keisling. Garrett also has the support of six state senators and representatives and two environmental groups: The Sierra Club and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Stephanie Wagner, the director of Friends of Tryon Creek, as an individual endorsed Garrett.
Voters' choice in this race faces Republican Griffith in November. The lifelong teacher and former Portland School Board member is putting his early campaign emphasis on education, environment, economic and health care issues.
He also wants government to move away from partisanship and put greater focus on leadership.