Let’s be realistic — the race to replace retiring state Rep. Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach, was likely decided in the May 15 primary.
Democrats have long dominated House District 32, which includes Clatsop and Tillamook counties, along with a small portion of western Washington County.
It would take a very strong message for the GOP to flip the seat. Republican Vineeta Lower has not offered one, in our opinion.
That appears to leave a clear path for Democrat Tiffiny Mitchell on Nov. 6. We have some concerns about that.
Outside money, outside influence
As we noted in the primary, we are dismayed by the amount of money poured into this campaign by outside interests, and the extent to which Mitchell’s campaign has been stage-managed by public-sector employee unions.
Only a fool would believe that such largesse does not come with strings attached.
John Orr, who was defeated by Mitchell in the Democratic primary, hit the nail on the head in his concession speech.
“I still wonder why this election had corporations and organizations from around Oregon campaigning for my opponents,” Orr said. “Now it’s time for the winner to listen to the residents of House District 32.”
We think Mitchell is sincere in her stated desire to represent the district’s best interests, and to fight in Salem on behalf of her working-class constituents.
However, we also think her union backing eliminates any chance of a substantive conversation about the state’s Public Employees Retirement System liability. All other issues pale in comparison.
Oregon’s public pension deficit has grown to $25.3 billion, which means schools and local and state governments will need to drain an additional $1.4 billion from their projected 2019-21 budgets to feed the pension beast, The Oregonian recently reported.
The amount is much higher than employers had been led to expect and comes on top of the $900 million jump included in the current two-year budget cycle, the newspaper said.
Where will that money come from? The pockets of the rest of the state’s taxpayers?
Mitchell agrees that the benefits for higher-paid state retirees are exorbitant. While the state cannot walk back promises to employees, it needs to get creative in paying down pension obligations, such as incentivizing agencies to find cost savings and spending any extra in budgets toward paying down the liability, she said.
She has also called for raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to provide more revenue.
“I don’t think taxes should be raised on regular people,” she told The Daily Astorian’s editorial board.
We agree, though the wealthy and corporations have a stranglehold on the Legislature, presenting big hurdles to tapping that revenue source.
We also agree that teachers have been unfairly vilified in the PERS debate. We believe they have the right to competitive wages and comfortable retirements. Education should be one of the state’s top priorities.
But we can’t afford to hire more teachers, properly support our schools or do much to reduce class sizes if the PERS debt is not brought under control.
Lower not prepared
We have been very disappointed in Lower’s campaign, and do not believe she is a moderate enough candidate to win.
She did not appear at candidate forums in Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach featuring two of her opponents — Mitchell and Independent candidate Brian Halvorsen.
She was unprepared to talk about affordable housing, PERS or most of the statewide ballot measures during her editorial board interview. When pressed, she did say she supports Measure 105, which would repeal the state’s sanctuary law.
While she said she doesn’t like President Donald Trump’s tone, she has also said she’s OK with just about everything he’s doing. We don’t think that’s a message that resonates with most of the electorate in the district, which presents an even higher hurdle to her chances of flipping the seat.
Finally, we are disturbed at some of the attacks employed against Mitchell by Lower and her supporters. Lower appears in a video on TV and online featuring street demonstrations in Portland — presumably a criticism of Mitchell’s involvement in the progressive group Indivisible North Coast — saying “we need leaders that bring us together, not tear us apart.” Really? This coming from a Trump supporter?
An especially despicable mailer from a group called Women’s Leadership Coalition PAC criticizes Mitchell’s pro-abortion stance, featuring photos of a premature baby named Coeli.
What about the independents?
We actually like Halvorsen, the Independent candidate from Rockaway Beach. He is smart, articulate and well-informed.
However, he is very narrowly focused on campaign finance reform — which we admire — and income inequality, which is a noble thought but not going to be solved anytime soon.
We don’t think he has much of a chance in this election, but hope he pursues public office at the local level. He has the energy and ideas to make a difference.
The Libertarian candidate in the race, Randell Carlson of Tillamook, has been invisible during the campaign.