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Two Democrats, one Republican throw hats into District 49 race

The retirement of Wood Village Republican Karen Minnis later this year will close the door on one legislative era and open opportunities for a new political bridge between East County and Salem.

Three candidates - two Democrats and one Republican - are vying for Minnis' soon-to-be-vacated seat for District 49. Following are introductions to each of them:

Barbara Kyle

An Troutdale resident since 1996, Barbara Kyle was directly involved in area politics even before she was elected to Troutdale City Council in 2002. She previously served on the city's planning commission and budget committees.

The real estate agent believes her experience working with citizens and fellow councilors would transfer effectively to governing at the state level.

'You have to be patient and persistent to get done what needs to be done,' she said. 'I'm a process person, not a sound bite person.'

On council, she helped clear a path for a proposed FedEx distribution plant slated for the former Reynolds Metals site with a tax abatement enterprise zone and has taken firm stances on controversial transportation issues. She helped block a Multnomah County plan to raise bridge funding through a car registration fee and continues to support preservation of a county-owned right of way through Troutdale for a future Interstate 84-Highway 26 corridor.

Both issues underscore her belief that transportation is a regional matter.

'I think that connector is extremely important to the future of our area,' she said. 'It is part of the regional transportation plan, and we have to think regionally' and get beyond the 'instant gratification' of short-term solutions. 'We need jobs, and we have to stop putting up roadblocks to make them happen.'

She supports changing laws to allow jurisdictions, including Multnomah County, to place tolls on bridges.

'We're going to have to look at some tolling. The Legislature has stopped that' in the county.

Kyle, a mother of five grown children with her husband, Kelly, is distressed that state education funding is inadequate. She feels her ability to unite people across party lines will lead to a more consistent focus on increasing educational resources.

'I'm not going in with rose-colored glasses,' she said. 'The Legislature has to be on the same page, not divided on party lines. We all have to work together on revenue sources' for education.

Kyle said she doesn't think a proposed casino complex in Wood Village would be a positive economic development. However, she would be 'reluctant' to interfere with the process to let state and Wood Village voters determine the controversial project's future.

'We don't need more service industry jobs in East County,' she said. 'I know it would bring in tourists, but it also brings a transportation nightmare.'

Kyle is proud of her accomplishments as a city councilor, particularly her efforts to open communications between council and citizens. She championed an e-mail portal on the city's Web site as a direct link to councilors and supported the formation of neighborhood associations.

Kyle and her Democratic opponent each have something to offer voters, Kyle noted.

'I think we each have our strengths. He's got energy and enthusiasm. I'm probably more realistic.'

Nick Kahl

Kahl has never held a political office, but the 31-year-old Rockwood resident is clearly adept at keeping many plates spinning while serving his community.

The second-year law school student at Lewis and Clark College has been active in the Democratic Party since high school. He serves as a precinct committee person and recording secretary of the Multnomah County Democratic Party and worked as staff assistant to Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen.

He sees the opening of Minnis' House seat as a golden opportunity to create a fresh vision for East County.

'East County isn't represented all that well,' he said. 'I think this is the district where both parties showed up and threw mud at each other.'

The Rockwood resident is concerned about the blight in his neighborhood and believes little is going to change without a hard look at education and public safety funding. The number of idle youths he sees every day indicates a fundamental community problem with larger implications.

'There's a lot of kids with nothing to do. That's a concern,' he said. 'And it creates a concern in excess of what the actual problem is.'

Regardless of how youth crime ebbs and flows, it's how citizens feel about their communities that makes a difference, he notes.

'If the MAX train is perceived to be unsafe, people aren't going to ride it,' he said, adding that additional funding for after-school activities is essential.

Kahl wants to reinvest in community colleges such as Mt. Hood to help them be more engaged with the area they serve. He also favors shifting the state tax burden away from small business owners.

'First and foremost, the corporate minimum tax needs to be raised,' he said.

While he believes the gas tax is a political 'dead horse' in an era of skyrocketing fuel costs, he is open to a 'minor' increase in the tobacco tax to support social services and transportation infrastructure. Regarding the latter, Kahl says he will strive to encourage investment in a regional transportation funding plan.

'I want to see the environmentalists at the same table with contractors and car people,' he said, 'for a plan that's beneficial to all of them.

Kahl, a single man who calls playing classical upright bass his primary hobby, says he's unequivocally opposed to the Wood Village casino project.

'I am totally against the casino,' he said, noting he 'grew up' going to the Multnomah Kennel Club, where the controversial facility would be built if voters approve it. 'When a casino shows up, crime and poverty increase.

'I believe in home rule,' he added. 'But Wood Village should not be able to decide to the detriment of its neighbors.'

John Nelsen

Running unopposed

as a Republican

Nelsen has devoted much of his life to education. He has served as Reynolds School Board president since 1999, as well as on its budget committee. He founded the Mastery Learning Institute/Arthur Academy and served on the board of the Multisensory Learning Institute.

It's not surprising, therefore, that Nelsen intends to serve as a liaison between the state and East County's academic needs if he's elected.

'Teachers feel the state is not a partner in education, but a bully,' he said. 'The state needs to take its emphasis on compliance and put it on supporting teachers and kids. We need to adjust the state rules to support classroom teachers, not distract.'

A married father of four, Nelsen is concerned about public safety funding, particularly for MAX trains and trouble spots such as his Rockwood neighborhood.

'We have to make sure local municipalities have the authority and resources to deal with public safety on a continuous basis,' he said. 'I'll work with people on both sides of the aisle' to find funding solutions.

Transportation priorities should be geared toward highways and infrastructure that directly stimulate economic growth, he said.

'There has been a real emphasis on non-highway projects,' he said, noting that political leaders have put too much emphasis on light rail and bicycle lanes. 'I think the priority, in a nutshell, should go toward projects that encourage economic development and private capital investment.'

Regarding the Wood Village casino prospect, Nelsen says he's 'personally against it,' but believes the issue is too complicated for a simple yes or no answer.

'If it requires me to act as a legislator, I'm against it,' he said. 'My basic desire is to let local governments deal with that issue.'

Candidate bios

Name: Barbara Kyle

Age: 59

City of residence: Troutdale

Occupation: Owner, A Real Estate Lady

Prior experience: Troutdale City Council member since 2002, city of Troutdale Budget Committee, Planning Commission and Urban Renewal Agency, Emergency Medical Technician, Union County Rural Fire Department.

Community involvement: West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce, Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, East Metro Economic Alliance, Five-City Intergovernmental Committee, Three Cities Fire Committee, Oregon Bed and Breakfast Guild.

Family: Married to Kelly Kyle, they have five grown children between them.

Hobbies: Jewelry making, camping, writing, bluegrass music.

Name: Nick Kahl

Age: 31

City of residence: Rockwood

Occupation: Second-year student at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College, Portland.

Prior experience: Staff assistant to Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen; Precinct Committee person and recording secretary of the Multnomah County Democratic Party; staffing company manager, Sante Fe, N.M.

Community Involvement: Taught classes, ran co-curricular activities and worked one-on-one with emotionally and developmentally challenged children at nonprofit Serendipity Center school, Southeast Portland.

Family: Single.

Hobbies: Musician (acoustic bass), composing classical music

Name: John W. Nelsen

Age: 47

City of residence: Rockwood

Occupation: Director, Project YESS, Mt. Hood Community College;

president, Reynolds School District Board of Education

Prior experience: Past Fellow: Institute for Educational Leadership, Graduate Leadership Oregon 2001, director of PCC/Gear-Up (2001-2006); program administrator/coordinator at Columbia Education Center (1988-2000)

Community involvement: Elected three times to the Reynolds School District Board of Education (1999-Present), Reynolds School District Budget Committee (1999-2008); past chairman of the Reynolds Education Foundation; co-founder/past chairman of the Mastery Learning Institute/Arthur Academy, past board member of Multisensory Learning Institute (MLA); advisory member Moore Street Salvation Army, regular blood donor; founder/coordinator of youth basketball program for at-risk East County teenagers (2000-2007).

Family: Happily married 25 years with four children and a pug dog named Lola.

Hobbies: Playing and collecting guitars, motorcycle riding.