Endorsement: Re-elect Betsy Johnson in SD 16
Editor's note: This endorsement is part of a series of editorials in advance of the Nov. 6, 2018, general election. Also in this Oct. 17, 2018, issue, our editorial board endorses Ron Noble for House District 24, Rich Vial for House District 26, Susan McLain for House District 29, Janeen Sollman for House District 30, Brad Witt for House District 31, Tiffiny Mitchell for House District 32, Alexander Flores for Senate District 15 and Knute Buehler for governor.
Our endorsement editorials in the previous issue on Oct. 10, 2018, recommended voters elect Tom Johnston, Malynda Wenzl and Devon Downeysmith for Forest Grove City Council; Luis Hernandez and John Colgan for Cornelius City Council; and Beach Pace, Kyle Allen and Olivia Alcaire for Hillsboro City Council.
Our Oct. 3, 2018, endorsement editorials recommended voters elect Kathryn Harrington as Washington County Board of Commissioners chairwoman and approve Ballot Measure 26-199.
Our Sept. 26, 2018, endorsement editorial recommended voters reject Ballot Measures 103 and 104. Our Sept. 19, 2018, endorsement editorial recommended voters reject Ballot Measure 105. Our Sept. 12, 2018, endorsement editorial recommended voters approve Ballot Measure 102.
We'll keep this one short, because there's really no contest in Senate District 16, which covers the northwestern corner of Oregon, including western and northern Washington County.
State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, is unquestionably one of the hardest-working and most influential members of the Oregon Legislature. She has the nominations of the Democratic, Republican and Independent parties.
A member of the Legislature since 2001, Johnson is perhaps Oregon's truest political maverick, a moderate-to-conservative Democrat who has few compunctions about voting with Republicans on gun control bills, the minimum wage, automatic voter registration and more.
Despite her occasional renegade ways, or perhaps because of them, Johnson is still regarded as a power player in Democratic politics, with eight committee assignments that include a plum spot on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. She cannot be ignored in Salem, and neither can SD 16.We don't always agree with Johnson. We supported automatic voter registration in 2015, and we were frustrated when she squelched a bill last year to protect tenants from no-cause evictions. But there is no question she has consistently delivered for her district, and we think having people who are willing to step across the aisle is good for Oregon politics.
Johnson's lone opponent, Constitution Party standard-bearer Ray Biggs, is uncompromisingly hard-right. Among other issues, Biggs believes abortion, which he prefers to call "baby-killing," should be illegal in all cases, even when the mother's life is in danger, and he thinks the National Rifle Association is too liberal on gun control. He has run for the Legislature before, and thankfully, voters have never seen fit to send him there.
Voters should send Johnson back to Salem and look forward to four more years of hard work and bipartisan action on behalf of SD 16.
Rounding out the slate of Senate races in western Washington County is Senate District 13. We'll keep this one short, too.
Kim Thatcher has served in the Oregon Legislature since 2004, and it's unlikely she'll be unseated in this race.
Sen. Thatcher, who lives in Keizer, represents the sprawling Senate District 13, which stretches from Keizer north to Wilsonville, Scholls and portions of southern Hillsboro. While Rep. Rich Vial, who represents half of her district in the Oregon House of Representatives, is distinctly moderate, Thatcher is what we'd call a Republican's Republican.
All in all, Thatcher probably represents largely rural, conservative SD 13 pretty well, even though we'd like to see her more toward the the middle on a few more issues. Although she's generally a down-the-line Republican in the Legislature, she has broken ranks with Republicans on occasion, and she's also a strong proponent of government transparency. We do appreciate that stance — but her alliance with OFIR, a group that has been labeled the state's largest anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a dealbreaker for us.
OFIR has partnered with militias to patrol Salem-area day-laborer sites, and OFIR spearheaded the movement to get Ballot Measure 105 — the so-called "sanctuary" repeal, which our editorial board opposes — on the ballot. Thatcher was a chief petitioner on that referendum's petition drive, and she touts OFIR's endorsement.
Thatcher's main opponent in the race, Sarah Grider, replaced the original Democratic nominee when he dropped out. She doesn't have a statement in the voter's pamphlet, and she didn't return our requests for an interview. If she's running a serious campaign for the Legislature, we haven't seen it.
There really is no choice here, and we can make no endorsement. Thatcher will more than likely serve another four years in Salem. But come 2022, we'd like to see a more serious Democratic challenger take her on.
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