An open seat in state House District 32 presents us with the most difficult choice on the November ballot.
Democrats have held the district, which covers Clatsop and portions of Tillamook and Washington counties, since 2002.
In our endorsements for the May primary, we outlined our criteria. Legislators from rural areas have a greater responsibility to serve as advocates for their districts, not ideologues for their political parties.
We want a representative with an independent streak who can partner with state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, and learn how to be effective no matter which party or faction is in power in Salem.
We endorse Suzanne Weber.
The Republican is a retired elementary school teacher who helped run a cake and catering business and a retail store.
For the past decade, Weber has served as the mayor of Tillamook after several years on the City Council.
Holding nonpartisan, elected office in a small town where she has lived for 50 years, she has had to navigate local issues important to friends, neighbors and businesses while also being an advocate for her city’s interests at the county, regional and state levels.
Any successes, Weber said, were not “based upon whether or not you were a Republican or a Democrat. They were based on how can you get the most, and the best, done for the people who live here.
“And so that has been my focus.”
Weber ranks education, housing and transportation as the most important policy issues facing the state.
“I think I’m connected with the people. I think I am a very good listener. I think that I am in touch with the issues in this area,” she said. “And I know enough people that when I need information — from both sides of whatever question it is that I’m addressing — that I can go and get good, honest answers that will reflect the values of the people that I’m going to be representing.”
We disagree with Weber’s opposition to cap and trade.
We opposed House Bill 2020 last year, mostly because we were concerned higher fuel costs would have had a disproportionate impact on rural communities. But we supported the new version this year as a step forward on climate change that recognized regional economic differences.
We also think Weber is wrong about the corporate activity tax, a vital source of $1 billion a year for the Student Success Act that could improve our schools.
While we don’t have a litmus test on any one bill or law, our endorsement does come with reservations.
The Republican walkouts in Salem over cap and trade were a stain on Oregon. If Republicans are frustrated in the minority, they should come up with more compelling ideas, recruit better candidates and win more elections, not obstruct the legislative process.
Rep. Cheri Helt, from Bend, was the only House Republican this year who chose to stay at the Capitol and do the job she was elected to do. We expect Weber, if she prevails in November, to do the same.
Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell, who was elected in 2018, announced she would not run for reelection just before the filing deadline in March. FuturePAC, the campaign arm for House Democrats, recruited Debbie Boothe-Schmidt as a last-minute replacement.
Boothe-Schmidt has worked as a trial assistant and is the co-owner of Phog Bounders Antique Mall in Astoria. She was elected last year to the board of the Sunset Empire Transportation District.
Boothe-Schmidt has been a leader in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She is at her most persuasive when she talks about how her union background has shaped her. The experience has given her confidence and helped her understand how to lead, listen, bargain and compromise.
As a small-business owner, she understands the financial pressures of making payroll and the importance of treating employees fairly.
Boothe-Schmidt ranks the budget as the biggest policy issue facing the state.
“I feel we need to make sure that the most vulnerable in our districts are taken care of,” she said, “that we’re not sliding back on those that rely on certain services within the district.”
In our primary endorsement in May, we were concerned about Boothe-Schmidt’s independence, given her union background representing government workers and the fact she was hand-picked by House Democrats to replace Mitchell.
We’re still concerned. Labor and pension costs are among the driving forces in state budget debates. Public-sector labor unions, like AFSCME, already have influence in Salem and the ear of majority Democrats.
We were also distressed before the primary that Boothe-Schmidt would not take a position on cap and trade.
Even now, months later, she explained that amendments to the new version of the bill were still being drafted when Republicans walked out, so she does not have all the information necessary.
“I think cap and trade has really divided our district and we really need to get back to working together,” Boothe-Schmidt said.
We understand the politics are difficult. A definitive answer could alienate voters.
But we want a representative who can tell us where they stand, even when it’s politically inconvenient, even when we might disagree.