Conventions last week and this grab the spotlight; focus locally on Legislature

Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the time when the public starts to pay attention to the November election. Millions of eyes and ears were riveted to the presidential race as Democrats held their national convention last week and as Republican nominee John McCain made his surprising vice-presidential choice.

However, while the presidential race grabs the most attention, voters have numerous decisions closer to home that will have more impact on their everyday lives.

Too often, elections - both at the national and local levels - are decided on the basis of generalities. Candidates talk about helping the economy, cutting taxes or improving schools, but they avoid at all costs describing specifically what they would do once in office. Voters, however, should demand something better from the people who would represent them in Salem and elsewhere.

For voters in the Lake Oswego area, that means two House races to pay special attention to: District 38: Republican Stephen Griffith, Portland, vs. Democrat Chris Garrett, Lake Oswego; and District 37: Republican incumbent Scott Bruun, West Linn, vs. Democrat Michele Eberle, West Linn.

In the next few weeks, voters will have numerous chances to interact with candidates at their doorsteps, at candidate forums and through the media. With that in mind, here are topics that candidates - especially those running for the Oregon Legislature - must be prepared to address, not with platitudes, but with concrete responses:

*Everyone talks about the economy, but candidates must go further to describe in detail what they believe must be done to create good jobs in Oregon now and in the long term. Where should the state invest its research dollars? How do land-use laws affect the ability to attract industry? If state revenues fall, where should the cutbacks occur?

* When talking about education, legislative candidates must describe specifically what level of funding they support for K-12 schools, community colleges and universities. And if they want to talk about waste or inefficiencies in the schools, they should be prepared with real-life examples.

* The state and Portland region have not funded transportation adequately for decades. What plans do candidates have to raise money for roads and bridges?

* It's also easy to talk about health care, but do little to nothing. It's time for voters to insist that state and federal candidates address the topic in a much more specific way. What would candidates do to improve access to medical care, and how would they pay for it?

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