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Sources Say: Labor race not so nonpartisan

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Brad AvakianFor a position that is supposed to be non-partisan, the race for Oregon labor commissioner is one of the most partisan in the state. For starters, incumbent Brad Avakian is a former Democratic state representative and state senator who recently ran for the Democratic nomination to succeed First District Congressman David Wu. His opponent, Bruce Starr, is a former Republican state representative and current Republican state senator.

Their Voter’s Pamphlet pages also have a partisan feel. Those endorsing Avakian include current and former Democratic politicians and such traditional Democratic support groups as labor unions and pro-choice organizations. Starr’s endorsers include former Republican Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts and business groups.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Bruce StarrAvakian is also campaigning with Democratic politicians, including Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Avakian also recently played to his labor base by accusing Starr of supporting union-busting legislation.

For his part, Starr is campaigning with Republican politicians, including Oregon Second District Congressman Greg Walden.

Rare political unity

One group is making its preference clear in the hotly contested race for Clackamas County chair — other elected officials in the region. Many of them are contributing to incumbent Charlotte Lehan, who is opposed by John Ludlow, a leader of the revolt against light rail in the county.

Since Ludlow forced Lehan into a run-off in the May Primary Election, Lehan has received contributions from Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, former Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito, Metro President Tom Hughes, Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, Metro Councilor-elect Bob Stacey, Clackamas County Commissioner-elect Martha Schrader, Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten and Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Ludlow has only received a contribution from Damascus Mayor Steve Spinnett.

Despite that, Ludlow has outraised Lehan this year by a margin of $229,600 to $149,514. Most of his money — $142,442 — has come from the Republican-oriented Oregon Transformation Project PAC. It has received large contributions from the Stimson Lumber Company and conservative financier Loren Parks.

Can’t get enough politics?

In addition to the official state and county Voter’s Pamphlets, a number of civic and advocacy organizations are offering their own election guides. They are available in print and online versions. Not all are completely objective, however.

Perhaps the longest running is the Voters’ Guide prepared by the League of Women Voters of Oregon Education Fund. The 40th volume is now available in a variety of forms at

voteoregon.org. It covers statewide ballot measures and statewide and congressional races.

New this year is a mobile Voter Guide released by Our Oregon, a coalition of labor,

civil rights and other organizations. The app uses geo-location technology to target each voter’s location, allowing them to obtain information on their local races. It is available at www.ouroregon.org.