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Room for fresh voices, veterans

The Oregon Legislature is beginning to recover from the forced turnover caused by term limits approved by voters in 1992 (later overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2002).

And while not all incumbents are automatically worthy of re-election, one way to improve upon the Legislature's mediocre performance of late is to retain those who have shown competency while also injecting new energy from candidates fresh on the scene. Fortunately, citizens have the opportunity to choose among the old and the new in the May 16 primary as they select candidates to move forward to the November general election.

In four contested primary races, the Portland Tribune recommends that Democratic voters hold on to veteran lawmakers in House Districts 33 and 42, while promoting another House incumbent to the Senate District 17 seat. In House District 27, voters have the opportunity to advance a promising newcomer.

House District 27

This district, which includes part of Washington County and a swath of Northwest Portland, is up for grabs since Rep. Mark Hass decided not to run for another term. Two Democrats Ñ businessman and community volunteer Mike Bohan and Nike Inc. shoe designer Tobias Read Ñ are competing for the right to face Republican Dominic Biggi, who is unopposed in the primary.

Read is a centrist, well-informed candidate, but we prefer Bohan for his deep business and community experience. Bohan has a firm grasp of issues, and he provides us with a quote we wish could become the mantra for all state legislators: 'What (legislative) leadership misses sometimes is that it's not about the next election, it's about doing what's right for Oregon.'

House District 33

The incumbent, Mitch Greenlick, is an appropriate match for this Northwest Portland district that stretches into Washington County. The 71-year-old Greenlick, a professor emeritus at Oregon Health & Science University, stakes out thoughtful positions on the range of issues confronting Oregon Ñ from education to economic development.

However, it is Greenlick's knowledge of health care that sets him apart from just about everyone else in the Legislature Ñ and also from his opponent, Jeffrey Kee. Greenlick is the former vice president of research for Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and the former chairman of public health and preventive medicine in the School of Medicine at OHSU. You normally can't buy that kind of expertise at a legislator's salary of $17,244 a year.

House District 42

Democratic incumbent Diane Rosenbaum is facing Gordon Hillesland, a utility worker and Democratic Party activist.

Hillesland has interesting ideas for increasing Oregon's revenues through more aggressive tax collection, but we prefer Rosenbaum's solid experience in the inner Southeast Portland district.

Rosenbaum has served four terms, and she has extensive knowledge of legislative issues. As the House minority whip, she is a leader among Democrats and also is solid on health care and environmental issues.

No Republican has filed.

Senate District 17

Brad Avakian, a 45-year-old Beaverton civil-rights attorney, is the most experienced Democrat seeking to replace the departing Sen. Charlie Ringo, also a Democrat.

Avakian, who is opposed in the primary by affordable-housing champion Sam Chase of Portland, has an accomplished record during his two terms as representative for House District 34. Avakian intends to be a voice for bipartisan cooperation and a fierce advocate for education funding. He is the best choice for the district that extends from the city's West Hills to North Plains.

No GOP candidate entered the race in time to appear on the ballot.