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Send Starr and Gallegos back to Salem

Editor’s note: With this issue, our three-person editorial board begins its endorsements of candidates in races within our coverage area. This week, we offer our views on the contests in Oregon Senate District 15 and in House District 30.

Senate District 15: Bruce Starr

The candidates here are incumbent state Sen. Bruce Starr, Republican; former state Rep. Chuck Riley, Democrat; and Caitlin Mitchel-Markley, Libertarian.

All three candidates made a good showing in the Oct. 1 candidates’ forum at the Hillsboro Main Library and with their responses to our lengthy candidates’ questionnaire. For someone new to politics, we were especially impressed with the Libertarian candidate, Caitlin Mitchel-Markley. Her responses to a variety of questions showed she was very knowledgeable and prepared. She more than held her own, and may well have a future in elective office if she chooses to pursue a political career.

We felt Chuck Riley was a bit too much “on the fence” over several issues. For example, he skirted giving an opinion on Measure 91, which would legalize marijuana in the state, and he did not offer much detail when asked about what approach he would take for moving oil if trains and pipelines are not acceptable. On the other hand, we liked Riley’s strong advocacy for more education funding, as well as his response to a question on climate change: “We need to do what we can to take care of this planet,” Riley said during the Oct. 1 forum.

However, although all three candidates have their good points, we believe Bruce Starr stands out as clearly the best choice for Senate District 15. We have been very impressed with Starr’s views on education. We liked Starr’s boldness in voting to increase the K-12 funding budget by $100 million in the last legislative session, and he wisely said he’d like to get the statewide budgeting done as soon as possible in the spring to allow individual school districts time to decide how to allocate their respective pieces of the pie.

In contrast to Riley, who did not provide a clear answer, Starr said he won’t support Measure 91 because there are too many unanswered questions on the measure’s ramifications. Starr also was clear on his opposition to Measure 92, which would require labeling of genetically modified organisms, because of its possible impacts on our county’s farmers and taxpayers. We appreciate that Starr has been a strong supporter of transportation infrastructure projects, including light rail. With traffic congestion worsening and our state heavily reliant on trade and shipping our products to distant markets, his awareness of the importance of transportation spending is refreshing.

Further, Starr has been a voice of moderation on most issues, and we are pleased with his willingness to avoid partisanship and work with Democrats in Salem.

Sen. Starr has been a strong and effective voice for our district, and we believe he has earned another term as state senator.

House District 30: Joe Gallegos

The candidates are incumbent state Rep. Joe Gallegos, Democrat; Dan Mason, Republican; and Kyle Markley, Libertarian.

We believe Joe Gallegos has done a remarkably solid job in his first term. He has been a true champion for K-12 funding, and he seems to have the energy and desire to build on that work in a second term.

We appreciate Gallegos’ folksy manner and his visibility at many community events. He is often out in public and accessible to citizens, offering a friendly presence to constituents while attending political forums and coffee chats or walking in parades.

Further, Joe championed House Bill 4116 — the Aspirations to College Bill — which provides scholarships and support services for students from low income backgrounds or who are first in their families to go to college. This is the type of innovative approach to problems we love to see in our legislators.

Dan Mason has his strong points. We liked his stance on the importance of education. “The largest priority of any state government is K-12 education,” Mason responded when asked about the biggest issue facing state legislators. We also appreciated Mason’s view that, along with education, transportation is one of the top issues for Washington County. However, on the negative side, it caught our eye that when Mason was asked why he thought voters should give him their votes, rather than offer positives about his own record, he instead ripped into what he believes Gallegos has done wrong.

Although Kyle Markley, the Libertarian candidate, offered some interesting ideas (for instance, we appreciated his response regarding oil trains: “If the potential for accidents were sufficient reason to ban something, we would have to start by outlawing cars”), too often his responses in the Oct. 1 candidates’ forum at the Hillsboro Main Library came across as extreme. For example, he claimed that having a minimum wage is “a form of price control” that “takes away from the freedom of two people to agree to a wage.” Markley also said he believes climate change is occurring, but “it will not be a catastrophe,” which came across as naive.

In our view, Gallegos has put together a solid first term. He has been moderate and responsible in the stances he has taken, and has shown as willingness to avoid partisanship and work with Republicans such as Bruce Starr. And Gallegos’ Hispanic roots helps give a voice to a vital local demographic.

Taking all these factors into consideration, we believe Gallegos is clearly the strongest candidate in this group. He deserves a second term.

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