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Crowded race to fill State Rep. Brent Barton's position


Democratic voters in Oregon City, Gladstone, Jennings Lodge and Johnson City will have a tough decision to make on the May 17 primary ballot.

From left in alphabetical order: Steven Cade, Terry John Gibson, Mark Meek, Evon Tekorius and  Christine VanOrder.State Rep. Brent Barton (D-Oregon City) is not running for re-election, citing his need to focus on a growing law practice and newborn son, and three strong candidates are stepping up in the hopes of filling his shoes: Army veteran and attorney Steven Cade; Marylhurst University instructor and Oak Lodge Sanitary District Board President Terry John Gibson; and U.S. Air Force veteran and Realtor Mark Meek.

Democrats have the advantage in District 40, due to party registration and historical data. In a 2014 rematch, Steve Newgard, a Republican from unincorporated Clackamas, lost to Barton by an 8 percent margin, a much larger margin than in 2012.

A new Republican candidate, OC school board member and small business owner Evon Tekorius, and activist and former small business owner Christine VanOrder, who is running unaffiliated, will throw a monkey wrench into any predictions in November, because they also are running strong campaigns that will resonate with many local voters.

The following are profiles of the candidates designed to help voters decide in May and November:

Steven Cade

BACKGROUND: After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2003, Cade enlisted in the Army and served one tour in Kirkuk, Iraq, as part of the 101st Airborne Division from 2005-06. He was named division soldier of the year in 2005, and was awarded a bronze star in 2006.

Returning home in 2006, he attended law school at the University of Oregon, then started his own business, representing individuals in connection with civil rights and disability claims, before joining Lorber, Greenfield & Polito in 2012.

“I learned more about Oregon’s citizen-Legislature, which has always stood out in my mind as the type of institution that I would want to be involved with: a place where our communities come together to enact policies that promote shared welfare and our shared values,” Cade said. “Now, as a lawyer, I have looked for ways to help in my community. In 2015, I served on the Traffic and Safety Committee of the Jennings Lodge CPO and helped provide organization and testimony in the fight to force responsible development of the Evangelical Retreat Center. I am active in my church and volunteer with the Rebuilding Together project, which organizes community members to rehabilitate homes in our neighborhoods.”

CORPORATE TAX: “I support IP 28. This measure taxes the gross receipts of large corporations that currently extract large amounts of wealth and profits from our state, at the expense of our citizens. It is time that these corporations paid their fair share. The revenue from this measure will go a long way toward resolving our school funding problems.”

LOCAL ISSUE: “Next session, it is likely that a transportation measure will be again considered. It is important that our district have a strong advocate in Salem to ensure that Clackamas County’s needs and concerns are fairly considered. The Willamette Falls legacy project needs continued support, as well as the project to find a permanent solution to the locks at the falls.”

SCHOOL FUNDING: “We also need to consider whether we should remove the lid on local funding, so that local communities are able to fund the school programs they deem most important. Second, and not less important, our schools need to ensure that they have a students-first focus. We need to ensure that resources are going directly to the schools and classrooms first, and to administration and overhead as a distant second.”

Terry John Gibson

BACKGROUND: The OLSD Board appointed Gibson to fill Paul Savas’ seat. Gibson was elected in May 2011 for a two-year term and re-elected in 2013 for a four-year term. Gibson represents OLSD at the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee’s regional transportation discussion.

Gibson is in his second term as chairman of the North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council, representing the Boardman Creek watershed basin. He is president of the board of Schoolyard Farms, a nonprofit focused on minority, low-income students and teaching them how to grow their own food in the context of regular schoolwork.

With the Mcloughlin Area Plan Implementation Team, the Board of County Commissioners was convinced to work with ODOT and PGE to install streetlights along Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard from Gladstone to Milwaukie.

“I was the tip of the spear that finally convinced the county staff that the project was worth working for, and the rest of MAP-IT, particularly the business members, carried the ball across the finish line,” Gibson said. “In sum, I am a community builder in north Clackamas County and have a strong base of support that is interested in seeing me go to Salem, even if much of it is outside the District 40 area.”

CORPORATE TAX: “Oregon ranks at the bottom for high school graduation rates, largely due to lack of adequate revenue. Oregon also has some of the lowest business taxes in the nation. I think that there is a direct correlation and so do many other smart peop le who have been looking at this a lot longer than I have. It is time to do something to solve the education problem by modifying the corporate tax schedules. Out-of-state corporations that draw capital from our community need to pay their fair share to support local basic rights. “

LOCAL ISSUE: “Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba and I, along with the NCUWC, are committed to making the removal of the Kellogg Creek Dam happen sooner rather than later. The Oregon Department of Transportation has been the major hurdle in making any progress on this vital environmental issue, so being in Salem seems to be a promising avenue to make that happen. However, the Kellogg Creek issue is just one of many systemic environmental challenges we have along the Willamette River downstream of the Willamette Falls.”

SCHOOL FUNDING: “The whole system needs more funding. ... It’s not just the shootings. Many more kids with emotional and developmental challenges are acting out physically because it is a three- to four-month wait for mental health care. Other students, the faculty, and the staff are bearing the brunt of how we, as a civil society, are dealing with this issue.”

Mark Meek

BACKGROUND: Meek has been a small businessman since 1991. A Gladstone resident, Meek has been a volunteer singer at Christ the King Church since 1996 and is an active member and upcoming chair of the North Clackamas County Chamber of Commerce.

He volunteered on the Clackamas County Planning Commission and the Clackamas County Economic Development Commission, and is currently serving as the vice president of governmental affairs for the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors.

“My involvement with governmental affairs has ... given me a consistent and clear understanding of the issues facing our state and community,” Meek said. “As a state representative, I’d bring a proven ability to deliver results working with community leaders, small business owners, and local governments.”

CORPORATE TAX: “Working families are unfairly shouldering too much of the tax burden today. Making sure that large and out-of-state corporations pay their fair share for important services like education and health care is crucial for building an equitable economy for everyone in Clackamas County.”

LOCAL ISSUE: “I am looking forward to working on the affordable housing crisis and the role that economic development can play in addressing these issues. As a planning commissioner, I have an extensive background in the statewide planning process, and I’ll use this expertise to help make more affordable housing available in our community.”

SCHOOL FUNDING: “If you look at our state budget, it’s not just a school funding crisis we are facing. ... We need to ensure that able-bodied citizens have the training and skills necessary to get good-paying jobs. Right now, there are many good-paying jobs going unfilled because there are not enough qualified applicants for those positions. More jobs equals more income, which equals more funding for schools.”

Evon Tekorius

BACKGROUND: Tekorius, who was appointed to the Oregon City School Board in 2014 to fill the seat vacated by Rick Lawrence, ran unopposed for her first full term last year. Tekorius previously served on OCSD’s Budget Committee and is the business manager for a fire-investigation firm she started with her husband in 2003.

“Each experience has taught me that Salem is where so many of these challenges must be solved to maximize the quality education our children deserve.

“My experience in the small business that I help run with my husband has also provided me with an important perspective. Oregon isn’t an easy place to run a business. I love living here, but small businesses face big challenges in Oregon.

“The knowledge I’ve gained from day-to-day operations qualifies me to be an advocate for fostering the growth of small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy. I also have a background in nonprofit management. My combined experiences, along with the fact that I have grown up in this district, make me passionate about our community, willing to collaborate and fully understand how to do great work with limited funds.”

CORPORATE TAX: “Many Oregonians are currently living paycheck-to-paycheck and struggling to stay afloat. While the proposed tax increase is directed at businesses, it will cost us all more at the grocery store, the gas station and increase the cost of so many other things we buy every day. I’m afraid families are the ones who will ultimately foot the bill when businesses are forced to add these new costs onto the prices of the goods they produce and sell.”

LOCAL ISSUE: “First and foremost, we need to support our local schools. As a school board member with three children enrolled in Oregon City public schools, I understand that one-size-fits-all education mandates issued by our state government don’t necessarily take into account the unique needs of our students, schools and communities.”

SCHOOL FUNDING: “Many state agencies have seen their budgets grow to record levels in recent years, [but] the same has not been true for our schools. I think more of that money should be directed toward our classrooms and building an education system we can be proud of. A strong public education system will attract people to our state. We need dedicated, steady resources to expand programs that prepare students for college and careers that will lead to good-paying jobs here in Clackamas County, which will ultimately decrease the need for other services, such as public safety and human services.”

Christine VanOrder

BACKGROUND: “I’m a former small business owner, so I learned a lot during that whole process about taxes, exemptions and whatnot, and it just felt good to create a job. ... My formal education is in records management, but I’m really just a housewife with a lot of time on her hands because I have a husband who makes union wages, and I have the leisure time to do what I’m passionate about. That just sums it up right there.

‘Yes, I do have a criminal conviction, only one, and I was 19. I’m not ashamed of my past because as a result of my experience I’ve become a prison ministries volunteer, an advocate for the ladies at Coffee Creek, and I’ve recently done some ‘pro-bono consulting’ for the DOC, which is a fancy way of saying I’ve been a squeaky wheel down at the Dome Building. The state of Oregon invested a lot of money in me, and it feels good to give back in any way I can. If I can suggest some policy changes that save taxpayers money, then I really feel like it’s been a good day.”

CORPORATE TAX: “The corporate tax is a horrible idea, and the minimum wage won’t lift anyone out of poverty unless you simultaneously cut state income taxes, (which we all know won’t happen) and then you’ll have to cut payroll taxes so that it won’t hurt the business owners.”

LOCAL ISSUE: “With the work that is going to begin on the riverwalk in Oregon City and the proposed demolition of necessary trees in Jennings Lodge, we need to be careful not to destroy what makes District 40 the sweet spot to live. Whatever goes on at the falls needs to be carefully monitored so that we don’t pollute the river or accidentally dispose of hazardous waste in the wrong way. Personally, I wish a tribe of Natives could reclaim the land in Jennings Lodge and preserve its integrity for all generations.”

SCHOOL FUNDING: “I thought when we passed the bill that allowed a state lottery in the early ‘80s it was supposed to solve all our school and infrastructure problems. I’d like to revisit that original plan, if possible. But even if I’m unsuccessful at redirecting lottery funds for their original intended purpose, unless I find a four-leaf clover somewhere, I would say that whatever we do, raising property taxes must be taken off of the table completely as the main source for funding.”