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We back Johnson, Davis, McLain

Editor’s note: With this issue, our three-person editorial board continues its endorsements of candidates in races in our coverage area. This week, we offer our views on the contests in Oregon Senate District 16; in House District 26; and in House District 29.

SENATE DISTRICT 16: BETSY JOHNSON

The four candidates competing in this sprawling district -- which includes all or parts of five counties: Washington, Tillamook, Clatsop, Columbia and Multnomah – are incumbent state Sen. Betsy Johnson, Democrat; Bob Ekstrom of the Constitution Party; Andrew Kaza, the nominee of the Independent Party and the Working Families Party; and Perry Roll of the Libertarian Party.

It’s a crowded field, but we like Betsy Johnson here. She has served in the Oregon Legislature since first being elected in 2000 as a state representative. She began serving in the Oregon Senate in 2005, and has the experience and respect needed to make headway with legislation.

Johnson has proven her independence by breaking with the Democratic Party leadership on gun legislation last year, a stance she took a lot of heat for. We respect her willingness to take the course she believes in regardless of what the party hierarchy wants. Salem needs more legislators willing to take that approach.

We’ve also been impressed with her level of involvement in the district. For example, she has shown up in Banks for several of the public hearings about the proposed “Salmonberry Corridor” trail between Banks and Tillamook, and stayed after the meetings to chat with residents regarding their concerns about or support for the trail.

In her response regarding education, she pointed out that she voted for the biggest K-12 public school budget in the state’s history; money that is helping to boost schools in the 2013-15 biennium by ensuring most of the state’s school districts do not have to cut school days, eliminate popular programs or put teachers on furlough.

In other issues important in her district, she stepped us as chief sponsor of an initiative to urge Congress to strengthen standards for new, safer tank cars that transport oil through the district.

Johnson has been a bold yet reasonable voice in the state’s politics for 14 years, and we like her frankness, even if some may peg her frankness as abrasive at times.

Overall, Johnson has been a thoughtful, moderate voice in Salem, and we recommend she be given a fresh four-year term.

HOUSE DISTRICT 26: JOHN DAVIS

The candidates are incumbent state Rep. John Davis, Republican; Eric Squires, Democrat; and Chuck Huntting, Libertarian Party.

Especially for a first-term representative, incumbent John Davis appears to be doing a solid job for the district, which juts into a corner of southeast Hillsboro, covers portions of Aloha and Reedville and extends south to Sherwood and Wilsonville.

In response to our questions, Davis stated that his key priorities are boosting transportation infrastructure, trying to resolve development pressures and providing adequate school funding. We will be watching to see that he follows through on those priorities, because we agree all three of those issues are extremely important to the Hillsboro area.

Davis said he believes an omnibus education funding and reform package should be the state’s first priority. He called for more teachers to be hired so the number of kids in classrooms can be reduced, and we were pleased with his call to boost funding for reading programs targeted at third-graders.

Davis appears to be passionate about the need to focus funding on education; he recognizes the importance of adequately funding transportation infrastructure projects in the district; and he does not seem to be overly partisan in his approach to legislating.

We would like to see Davis raise his profile in the Hillsboro area, however, and visit more often to meet with constituents in what he terms the district’s “north country.”

While we believe Davis deserves our endorsement, we are also impressed with Eric Squires. Squires seems very connected to the community -- Aloha in particular -- and we like his history of service. We hope Squires stays involved, and perhaps considers running for office again in the future.

But this year, Davis is our choice. We believe he may become even more effective as he gains more experience in the Legislature, and he deserves another term in office.

HOUSE DISTRICT 29: SUSAN McLAIN

Mark Richman, Republican, and Susan McLain, Democrat, are competing for the right to serve a two-year term as state representative in the wake of incumbent state Rep. Ben Unger’s decision earlier this year not to seek another term in House District 29, which includes Forest Grove, Cornelius and much of Hillsboro.

We believe Susan McLain stands out in this contest. We appreciate McLain’s experience as a high school teacher in Hillsboro for more than 40 years, and that background would serve her well in her efforts to effectively fund education in the district.

McLain is well-known in the community, not only as an educator but from her years as a Metro council member, where she served from 1991-2006.

In short, she has experience in government, understands how school funding works and appears to be in tune with the needs of the middle class. We also value McLain’s positive outlook on the district and how it can be improved. For example, she has focused on boosting small businesses, and we agree with her that the success of small businesses is often one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy economy. McLain appears most likely to support several of the priorities we believe are important for the district: school funding, preserving green space, support for transit projects and preservation of farmland.

Too often, Richman came across as a naysayer. In one question, he went off on a “doom and gloom” tirade that does not do our district justice: “Right now, incentives to our county’s economic health are being threatened, our schools are failing too many children, and the drumbeat to erode our public safety continues,” he responded to our question about why he decided to run for the office. In addition, he indicated he believes engaging local citizens in transit planning would be “a recipe for planning gridlock.”

Overall, Richman presented a somewhat dark view of what’s going on in the district, and his stances hinted he would take a partisan approach to legislating -- not what our state needs from its legislators.

We believe the scale clearly tips toward McLain in this race, and recommend voters give her the chance to serve as the district’s next state representative.

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