IPA quizzes candidates on progressive issues
Independents for Progressive Action started in 2016 as two local groups of Bernie Sanders supporters. But in the past year, the organization has become known for hosting public forums for a variety of local races and appointments — including House District 38 last summer and Senate District 19 just a few months ago.
Last week, the group tried a new kind of event.
Instead of hosting a public forum for candidates in a specific race, iPA hosted eight candidates Friday from four different races at a single forum at Robinwood Station Community Center in West Linn.
Metro Council District 2 candidates Betty Dominguez, Joe Buck and Christine Lewis were all in attendance. Dominguez was recently appointed to the seat, but she'll have to face off in May's primary election against Buck, Lewis and a fourth candidate, Carol Pauli, in order to win a full term starting next year.
They were joined by Clackamas County Clerk candidates Sherry Healy and Pamela White; Clackamas County Commissioner Position 2 candidates Louise Lopes and Peter Winter (incumbent candidate Paul Savas could not attend due to a scheduling conflict); and Lake Oswego resident Peter Wright, who is mounting a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader.
The Metro race appeared to be the biggest focus of the evening; some of the questions were directed exclusively at Buck, Dominguez and Lewis, although a majority of the queries went to all eight candidates.
In the county clerk race, Healy said her campaign is focused specifically on election integrity, while White emphasized the foundational role that the clerk's office plays in a representative democracy.
In the county commissioner race, Lopes put her focus on affordable housing, transportation and solutions to homelessness, and said she wanted to be a change agent.
"I want to be part of the coming blue wave," she said, "and as I like to call it, the woman wave."
Winter discussed the size of Clackamas County's economy and lamented that the county hasn't achieved the same outcomes as other areas with similar-size economies when it comes to health care and protecting vulnerable populations.
Wright said he decided to embark on his longshot primary challenge in part to seek stronger gun control laws. He said he was spurred to action by Schrader's recent vote in favor of concealed carry reciprocity, which would require states to recognize concealed carry permits issued in other states.
The first round of questions came from a list determined by iPA, and many of them focused broadly on progressive causes such as economic equality and access. Several early questions asked the candidates what they had done to fight for those causes, and what they would do, if elected, to advance them further.
Dominguez reflected on her own struggles with access growing up and the fights she said she had to go through to achieve her current education and lifestyle. She added that there was a need to take the fight to the federal level to change immigration laws.
She also discussed some of her own work on affordable housing and reaching out to marginalized communities, but said she wanted Metro to take a more active role, such as by purchasing land near future transit corridors to hold the space for affordable housing. And she said she would also fight for living wage jobs and access to affordable education.
"Affordable housing is just a Band-Aid," she said. "The real problem is poverty."
Buck pointed to some of his own actions as a Lake Oswego City Councilor, including a vote last year to move the city's fireworks show to a more public venue than the mostly private Oswego Lake. He also noted that he had helped the 2016 campaigns of Lake Oswego City Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff and mayoral candidate Jon Gustafson, both of whom ran on progressive messages.
Buck discussed the high cost of housing construction and the difficulty of overcoming protective neighborhood mentalities in some places, including Lake Oswego, and said the community needed to focus on diversity — including economic diversity.
"We've done a poor job as a region in developing our area to be diverse," he said.
Lewis said the 2016 election catalyzed her entry into politics, initially as a Democratic Party Precinct Committee Person and now as a candidate. She cited her own experiences working with labor unions at the state Bureau of Labor and Industries and said she would begin by making sure Metro workers are well-paid.
She also called for greater synergy between Metro's land use and transportation planning, which she said have been too disconnected in the past, and added that Metro could improve local access with more proactive outreach, citing her experience working on Cover Oregon as an example.
"We can't assume that people go to Metro," she said. "Metro needs to get out to people."
The final round of questions came from members of the audience, and some of them were more specific. One such question directed at the Metro candidates asked whether they would support the use of eminent domain to complete the Willamette Falls restoration project.
All three candidates replied that they would be open to the possibility, although Dominguez stressed that Metro is one of several partner agencies on the project and can't act unilaterally.
At the end of the meeting iPA members cast ballots to determine whether the group would endorse any of the candidates who appeared at the forum. This week, they did so: Healy for Clackamas County clerk; Wright for 5th District representative; and Dominguez for Metro District 2.