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County commissioners pick political consultant to succeed former Rep. Ann Lininger in a unanimous vote

REVIEW PHOTO: ANTHONY MACUK - Andrea Salinas addresses commissioners from Multnomah and Clackamas counties during an interview session Sept. 13 at the Palisades building in Lake Oswego. The vote to appoint her as the state representative for House District 38 was unanimous.Following a month-long selection process, Lake Oswego resident and political consultant Andrea Salinas was appointed last week to fill the seat vacated by former state Rep. Ann Lininger. Salinas will represent Oregon's House District 38 for the remainder of Lininger's term, which runs through 2018.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," Salinas told The Review shortly after being selected Sept. 13 in a unanimous vote by Clackamas and Multnomah county commissioners. "It will be the same work I've been doing, but I'm excited to do it in a new capacity."

Salinas, 47, has never held elected office before, but her career as a consultant and lobbyist for progressive causes has given her substantial experience working with state lawmakers to draft legislation, as well as strong connections with the Democratic Party of Oregon. Both of those factors gave her an edge in the race to succeed Lininger.

The county commissioners chose Salinas from a list of four nominees put forth by the Democratic Party. The other three candidates were public relations executive Neil Simon and Lake Oswego City Councilors Theresa Kohlhoff and Joe Buck.

In their closing remarks before the vote, every commissioner offered strong praise for the entire roster of candidates, but Salinas was repeatedly singled out as the top candidate because of her legislative experience and "long track record as an effective advocate."

"I have worked very closely with Andrea in my role as a state representative, and the issues that I championed and that I was passionate about in the state are ones that I know that she has as her core values, and she'll bring that same passion there," said Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, who served in the Legislature from 2013 to 2016. "I'm also impressed with her experience both as a Latina, as a small business owner and as a mother, and I think that perspective will serve her well."

REVIEW PHOTO: ANTHONY MACUK - Andrea Salinas (center) celebrates with supporters Paula Posadas (left) and Kerstan Ruffer shortly after being appointed last week to represent House District 38.

A public process

Last week's vote was the final stage in a process that began when Gov. Kate Brown announced in July that she had appointed Lininger to serve as a judge on the Clackamas County Circuit Court. Lininger resigned her legislative seat in August.

When an Oregon state legislator leaves office partway through their term, state law mandates that the lawmaker's political party nominate a list of three to five candidates to serve out the remainder of the term, with a final appointee to be chosen by the commissioners of the county in which the lawmaker's legislative district is located.

House District 38 includes all of Lake Oswego and part of Southwest Portland and is split geographically between Clackamas and Multnomah counties, so Democratic Precinct Committee Persons from both counties selected the slate of finalists and both boards of commissioners voted on the appointee. The commissioners' votes were weighted to reflect the larger voting population in the Clackamas County portion of the district.

The vote by commissioners was preceded by lengthy interviews with each candidate, all conducted publicly at Lake Oswego's Palisades building in front of roughly 60 supporters and guests. The session was also recorded and can be viewed on Clackamas County's Youtube channel.

The meeting began with a public comment period, during which 20 people lined up to offer comments and endorsements. Clackamas Commissioners Sonya Fischer and Ken Humberston were both away on business trips, but joined their eight colleagues for the meeting via Skype.

Several prominent Lake Oswego residents endorsed Buck, citing his strong support for education funding and his track record as a city councilor. Supporters included School Board Chair Jon Wallin, former Mayor Judy Hammerstadt and City Councilors Jackie Manz, John LaMotte and Skip O'Neill.

"It's nice to have that young, fresh look at issues from a different perspective, which Joe brings," O'Neill said.

Kohlhoff received endorsements from a number of community members who said they supported her strong progressive policy positions and willingness to fight for her beliefs. Her backers included Lisa Ortiz and other members of the local advocacy group Independents for Progressive Action, which organized a public town hall event for the candidates in August.

"I've always been impressed by her drive and her endless energy in everything she does," said Wilsonville City Councilor and former Mayor Charlotte Lehan, who served on the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners from 2009-2012.

Salinas received a broad swath of endorsements as well, including Lake Oswego School Board member Rob Wagner and a representative from NARAL, who praised Salinas's commitment to women's health and reproductive issues. Her previous experience in the Legislature was also cited as a reason to vote for her.

"I think Andrea Salinas has a distinct advantage as far as being able to accomplish things in the Legislature immediately," said Lake Oswego resident Jan Castle.

The candidates were then interviewed individually. Commissioners asked about contemporary state and local issues, including wildfires, freeway expansions and plans for a new Clackamas County courthouse. Candidates also were asked how they would fight for specific groups of constituents, such as veterans and the homeless.

In response to a question about legislative priorities, Buck emphasized education funding, while Kohlhoff said she would seek to be appointed to the judiciary committee to have a voice in judicial reform. Salinas declared that her highest priority would be making health care affordable, and Simon said he would push for freeway expansion along with mass transit development.

Unique approaches

Throughout the interviews and during their closing statements, each candidate tried to present themselves as a distinct choice with a unique approach to governance. For Kohlhoff, that meant emphasizing her progressive credentials and determination to "fight for the little guy" during her career as an attorney.

"I am by temperament and trade a courageous, compassionate and formidable fighter," she said.

Salinas discussed her own track record of direct involvement with legislation, often referencing previous bills that she'd had a hand in drafting. She emphasized the need to fight for groups that need representation.

"I do this work because for too many, the cards are still stacked against them," she told the commissioners.

Buck sought to present himself as a consensus-builder who could bring an inclusive approach to Salem, thanks to his background both as a business owner and Lake Oswego city councilor.

"I bring a style that builds teams and bridges divides," he said.

Simon played up his outsider status, telling commissioners he could be counted on to reach out to others in the Legislature and find unconventional solutions.

"Today, you can vote for politics as they area, or vote for a new way," he said.

The commissioners deliberated publicly before the vote, and there was universal praise for the entire roster of candidates. But as each commissioner indicated who they intended to vote for, a clear consensus emerged in favor of Salinas. Clackamas Commission Chair Jim Bernard then floated the idea of a motion to unanimously vote for Salinas, which was quickly moved, seconded and passed.

Salinas was officially sworn in Monday morning on the floor of the Oregon House. In a statement released shortly after the ceremony, House Speaker Tina Kotek welcomed Salinas, calling her "a proven leader with a track record of advocating to improve the lives of every Oregonian."

"I know she'll take the same commitment she's demonstrated throughout her career into her new role representing the people of House District 38," Kotek said.

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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