Candidates in highly contested District 49 race meet face to face

You might say the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce's Government Affairs Council saved the best for last.

To finish up its series of political forums, the candidates in one of the Nov. 7 election's most hotly contested races - incumbent Speaker of the House Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, and Rob Brading, a Fairview democrat - met Wednesday, Oct. 25, for their first and only face-to-face appearance in their most recent bid for House District 49.

Brading ran against Minnis in 2004 for the house seat and earned 46 percent of the vote compared to Minnis' 53 percent during his first bid for elected office.

On Wednesday, they remained professional, yet passionate in their responses to questions on topics ranging from economic development to transportation during a luncheon at Heidi's Restaurant.

Minnis said her proudest political achievement is, 'bringing a voice to East County,' in legislative talks with the governor and Senate president.

'There is a loud voice to the west of us that would like to drown you out,' she told the crowd of about 50. ' … I have been able to even the playing field and have East County have a real voice in Salem.'

Other proud moments she mentioned include working with Troutdale against bringing intermodal rail to the area, freeing up the Alcoa property for future industrial and tourism use; helping Gresham gain control of roads that ran through the city previously controlled by the county; securing $200,000 to expand Mt. Hood Community College's nursing program and $250,000 for the Oregon Science and Technology Partnership, plus $1.5 million in funding to fight gangs in East County.

Minnis' priorities if re-elected are stabilizing school funding and creating a rainy-day fund for the state.

Brading said he's running to make a positive difference in the community, a community that's frustrated by leaders who fail to act on behalf of their district.

Parents are hosting fund-raisers to buy library books, health care costs are sky high, state troopers have been reduced to a skeleton crew, school years are some of the shortest in the state and businesses are jumping the river to Vancouver.

'Something's wrong,' he repeated.

Both candidates dodged a question about who their largest campaign contributors are and how such donations could affect their legislative performance.

Minnis said she is offended by suggestions that she's 'bought and paid for by big business,' adding that she makes her decisions based on her constituents in East County.

Brading supports banning business and union campaign contributions.

'Money in big chunks, wherever it comes from, has an impact on our campaigns,' he said, adding that he is proud of the 800-plus citizens who contributed $10 here, $20 there to his grass-roots campaign.

One moment of levity came when the candidates were asked to name a positive attribute about the competition.

Brading called Minnis a loving parent and a devoted grandmother, adding, 'We all need that support.'

After a dramatic pause, Minnis responded. 'Rob Brading is tenacious, I will give him that. He fights, and he is a tenacious campaigner.'

Reporter Mara Stine can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 503-492-5117.

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