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Citizen's View: Why would a longtime Democratic activist back Gudman for treasurer?

Republican Jeff Gudman is running against Democrat Tobias Read and Independent Party candidate Chris Telfer for state treasurer. Why would a long-time Democratic activist like me be supporting a Republican for this office? After all, I am sure that Read agrees with more of my own policy positions than Gudman does.

But state treasurer is not your typical partisan office, nor is it a typical stepping-stone to governor (such as secretary of state, for example). In fact, Gudman openly declares that he is not going to run for governor at any time. He wants only to be treasurer — or I wouldn’t be supporting him.

Simply put, Gudman is more qualified to be treasurer than Read. He is currently the treasurer of the Legacy Emanuel Foundation, and he has held the treasurer positions for Hyster and for subsidiaries of NW Natural. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of Economics and holds an MBA in finance and business from that school. He serves as a city councilor in Lake Oswego, where he is a leader on matters of budget and finance.

I asked Gudman what he thought of Ted Wheeler’s proposal, which I support, to bring much of the huge $68 billion PERS pension fund management through the state treasurer’s office, instead of sending every nickel through Wall Street firms at high cost to the state. Gudman specifically supports the reform that Wheeler proposed, and I think his financial credibility will help him be successful in getting it done.

I have my own experience with Read, who is a state representative. As Gov. John Kitzhaber and House Speaker Tina Kotek pushed and pushed for the expensive and destructive $3 billion-plus Columbia River Crossing (CRC) — hoping to satisfy those businesses that wanted to profit from the construction and those building trade unions that wanted the jobs that the six-year construction project would provide — Read was their unwavering flunky. He was with them all the way to spending $200 million of Oregon and Washington taxpayer money on consultants, before state Sen. Peter Courtney killed the Oregon-only version in late 2013, knowing the Oregon Senate wouldn’t support it.

I attended and testified at a dozen or more joint House-Senate and House Transportation Committee hearings on the CRC over six years of consideration. Read was chair and co-chair of those committees. I never once heard him ask a question of the supporters or opponents to get more information. He clearly didn’t want to know about the problems of the CRC, the 935 permanent jobs to be destroyed or the environmental devastation that would be caused.

Read didn’t want to hear that tolling the new bridge, while refusing to toll the Glenn Jackson Bridge, would send thousands of commuters to the Glenn Jackson and I-205, creating a massive traffic jam there instead of on I-5. When opponents of the project (including me) tried to talk to Read outside the committee hearings, he simply refused to sit down and talk, and he did that throughout the years of hearings.

Read does not have a real background in finance. He was a product developer at Nike. He’s your classic politician on the make, so far as I can tell. He’s the kind of politician I don’t want to see in charge of safeguarding Oregon’s huge investments. Not a critical thinker. Not concerned with being fair, or avoiding conflicts of interest. Willing to go along to get along, to advance his own career.

I understand there are advantages to we Democrats of having a robust Democratic bench in the lower statewide offices. But there are serious problems in the state treasurer’s arena that Ted Wheeler identified. I believe Gudman is significantly more qualified than Read to deal with those important difficulties.

Jeff Gudman is going to be the very first Republican I can remember voting for in 47 years of watching Oregon and Portland politics closely. I urge other Democrats to join me.

Ronald A. Buel was a staff reporter and bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal and was the founding editor and publisher of the Willamette Week newspaper. He also served as director of business and strategic planning for Nike.