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McLain decision a good one for district

State Rep. Susan McLain’s decision to seek a second two-year term representing Oregon House District 29 is a good one.

We believe it’s important for the diverse district — which includes Forest Grove, Cornelius and parts of Hillsboro — to have some legislative stability and consistency. There are tangible benefits to having a more experienced operator in the Oregon Legislature working to serve the district’s constituents.

The experience and stability factor is even more compelling given that McLain’s two predecessors in representing House District 29 — former state Reps. Ben Unger, a Democrat, and Katie Eyre Brewer, a Republican — each served for only one term. Indeed, the district has not had a candidate serve for more than one term since Chuck Riley, a Hillsboro Democrat who first won election in 2004 and served three full terms.

In Unger’s case, he made a relatively late decision to bow out as the 2014 campaign season was well under way, leading to Susan McLain’s late entry into the race. Life happens, and we don’t fault Unger for making the determination that it was time for him to step away from serving in Salem. But it would have been a shame if McLain, a Democrat who lives in Forest Grove, had also decided to go in another direction, leaving House District 29 going “back to square one” for another legislative cycle.

McLain might have been something of an “accidental” candidate in 2014, but since taking office, she has proven to be a hard-working, fast-learning and strong advocate for the district. She has gained valuable experience and put it to work effectively, getting her two priority bills passed in 2015.

In a lengthy interview with the Hillsboro Tribune last week, McLain pointed out that public policy initiatives often take more than two years to effectively implement. It’s one thing to come up with a good idea and have it passed into law, but even after bills are passed, there is often a need for oversight and attention to make it work as intended. For example, last year McLain teamed up with fellow state Rep. Bill Kennemer, an Oregon City Republican, to co-author House Bill 2730, which created a specialty cancer-awareness license plate. Sales of the license plate will help raise funds to battle the disease. But although the legislation was signed into law Aug. 12, McLain is still working to line up the necessary funding to allow the Oregon Department of Transportation to produce the new plate.

“You have to follow through on the legislation you’ve passed,” she explained.

McLain’s other bill, HB 2680, prohibits use of school test results developed by the state to establish ratings for schools or to evaluate teachers or administrators. A task force helping to implement that legislation will not convene until next January, again highlighting McLain’s point about the need to follow through.

And with hearings and the committee process and the time it takes to pass legislation in the first place, two years is an extraordinarily short time to create political change.

McLain is a fifth-generation Oregonian with strong family roots in agriculture and a 42-year career as a high school teacher (mostly in Washington County). In the Legislature, she serves as vice chair of the important Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, and is also a member of three additional committees that are vital to Oregon’s fortunes: the Transportation Committee, the K-12 Education Committee and the Consumer Protection Committee.

Further, we have taken note, appreciatively, of McLain’s willingness to eschew partisanship in her legislative efforts. Not only did she work with a Republican in co-authoring her license plate bill, she also has signed on to help sponsor HB 2984, an urban timber bill written by state Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn).

“It’s important to work with everybody,” McLain said. “I’m talking with the full gamut of members, understanding that all communities need to be successful for Oregon to be successful.”

Oregon’s Legislature needs more of that type of approach, and McLain appears to be setting an example for her fellow Democrats — not only about working with Republican members, but also in getting perspectives from both sides of Oregon’s famous urban/rural divide.

McLain may still be just in the middle of her first term, but she appears to be learning fast about legislative requirements and deadlines, which helps make her a more effective legislator and better able to serve the district going forward.

For all these reasons, we welcome Rep. McLain’s decision to go before the voters next year to ask for another term.