Key campaigns heat up across the state
Governor, secretary of state, Measure 97 draw most attention
In about three weeks, local mail carriers will begin delivering ballots to more than 2.5 million Oregon voters.
Given all the attention focused on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many will be surprised to find that there are hundreds of other contests being decided on Nov. 8 throughout the state. In Clackamas County, for example, some voters will be asked to decide on nearly two dozen races, ranging from president, governor and county commissioner to mayor, city council and a host of ballot measures.
Some races are being vigorously contested. Others are foregone conclusions. But in all cases, voters are being asked to make informed decisions that could have a profound impact on their future.
In two weeks, The Review and Pamplin Media Group will publish a special Voters Guide to help you make those decisions a timely complement to the in-depth coverage of local races youre already reading in every issue of The Review. Through the month of October, well also explain our picks in local races and in key state contests. (See our first endorsements by clicking on the Opinion tab at the top of http://www.lakeoswegoreview.com.)
In the meantime, heres a look at three of the hottest state races for governor, secretary of state and Measure 97:
Candidates: Kate Brown (D) and Bud Pierce (R)
WHATS INTERESTING: Oregons line of succession made former Secretary of State Kate Brown emergency governor in February 2015, when Gov. John Kitzhaber stepped down amid an influence-peddling scandal. Nov. 8 will be the Democrats first bid at election to the states highest office an office she was widely expected to seek in 2018. Republicans have been locked out of the governors office since 1982, and initial polls suggest Pierce, a political newbie and Salem oncologist, may lack the momentum to oust Brown.
But in a year when the presidential race is defying conventional wisdom, Democrats are nervous. Pierce defeated his better-known opponent, former Republican Party Chairman Allen Alley of Lake Oswego, in the May primary with a largely self-funded campaign. He and Brown differ on policy issues largely along party lines and are on opposite sides of a battle over Measure 97, a corporate sales tax measure on Novembers ballot (see below). Brown has endorsed the measure, with reservations, while Pierce vehemently opposes it.
This election will decide who gets to complete the last two years of Kitzhabers four-year term. The winner will have to start campaigning again almost immediately if he or she wants to keep the job past 2018.
What to look for: Concrete policy proposals. Brown has set broad goals for the governors office in the next two years to boost the high school graduation rate, help small businesses, protect the environment and pass a transportation package, but has offered few details on how she plans to accomplish those goals.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Candidates: Dennis Richardson (R) and Brad Avakian (D)
Whats interesting: The main responsibilities of Oregons second-highest office are narrowly defined: sitting on the State Land Board, maintaining a register of state corporations and overseeing elections and audits of state agencies.
Both candidates say theyd bring new ideas to the office. Richardson, a former state legislator, would like the Corporations Division to become a help center for businesses. Avakian has much bigger plans. If elected, hed use the secretary of states office to advance renewable energy policy, audit private companies doing business with the state and promote civics education in public schools.
Richardson says Avakian is advancing a partisan agenda. Avakian, who is the current state labor commissioner, replies that his opponent is running away from his socially conservative stance as he tries to become the first Republican elected to statewide office in 14 years.
Whoever wins is likely to use the office as a pit stop. Avakian ran for Congress in 2011, losing to Suzanne Bonamici in the Democratic primary, and Richardson lost to John Kitzhaber in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Either would love to see the abbreviation Gov. in front of their name.
What to watch for: The race may be up for grabs. An iCitizen poll last month showed Avakian outpacing Richardson by only about three points (the poll had a 4-point margin of error) with 36 percent of respondents undecided.
Imposes tax on sales of some large Oregon corporations
Whats interesting: How much will Measure 97 affect consumers? That question is central to a debate over this corporate sales tax measure. The measure levies a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on certain corporations Oregon sales exceeding $25 million. The tax would generate an estimated $3 billion a year in additional revenue and wipe out a projected shortfall of $1.35 billion in 2017-19 to maintain existing state services. Proponents argue that surveys show tax increases have a minimal effect on prices. But according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Legislative Revenue Office, businesses would pass on the tax hike and the typical Oregon family would pay an additional $600 a year in the form of higher prices and lost job opportunities.
What to look for: Do Oregon businesses pay enough taxes? Proponents and opponents of Measure 97 dont agree on much and definitely not on this. Youll hear both sides cite studies related to the states business tax burden, corporate tax burden and corporate tax revenue per capita. They are three different things. Supporters have argued that the state has the nations lowest business tax burden, a calculation that includes factors way beyond the category of corporate taxes affected by Measure 97. Opponents point to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, which says Oregon ranks 26th for the amount of corporate tax revenue paid per capita.