Endorsement: Vial's independent streak a winner in HD 26
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, 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, Betsy Johnson for Senate District 16 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 approve Ballot Measure 102.
When our editorial board was scheduling the more than 30 endorsement interviews we have carried out this fall election season, we were not expecting to meet the most impressive pair of candidates in a race between a freshman legislator and a replacement challenger hastily nominated after primary voters' first choice withdrew.
But here we have it in House District 26, a sprawling district that runs from Hillsboro down to Wilsonville, where state Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, faces a political newcomer in Courtney Neron.
Despite being a freshman in the minority the past two years, Vial has blazed his own trail. He signed on as a chief sponsor of successful legislation to raise Oregon's legal age for buying and using tobacco to 21. He crossed party lines by casting a common-sense vote to close the boyfriend loophole. He is openly disdainful of party labels, telling us about a bill he wants to introduce to make the Legislature nonpartisan.
Vial also serves on the Washington County planning commission, and both there and in Salem, his key issue is building what he calls a "Westside limited-access highway" (he doesn't care for the more colloquial "Westside Bypass" moniker). If it is ever built, the long-debated route would likely run right through HD 26, directly connecting the Wilsonville and Hillsboro areas. We are skeptical of his idea to create a new special district to manage this highway, but we appreciate his work on the concept.
Neron, meanwhile, is a Pacific University alumna, Wilsonville resident and former language teacher who was recruited to run after the original Democratic nominee withdrew. Under the circumstances, it would have been hard to fault local Democrats for simply putting a warm body on the ballot and making plans for 2020. Instead, they hit a home run in nominating Neron, who is as enthusiastic, focused and well-prepared as any candidate we've seen this election cycle.
Asked about Metro's affordable housing bond (which Vial, a vocal skeptic of the regional government, opposes), Neron immediately flashed a thumbs-up and explained why the bond's oversight structure gives her confidence the money will be well spent. At the state level, she argued that a modest bump in Oregon's corporate tax rate is needed to stabilize the "three-legged stool" of revenue for budget areas like education and healthcare.
Neither Neron nor Vial is perfect. We wish Neron had prior experience serving in or even just campaigning for office — and we especially wish she had been selected by Democratic voters, instead of by precinct leaders. We do find Vial's big ideas to occasionally drift into the realm of "pie-in-the-sky" self-indulgence, and we weren't impressed when he punted on Ballot Measure 105. (Neron opposes the measure and did not hesitate to tell us so.)
On the whole, though, both of these candidates impress us because we feel Oregon could use a few dozen more state legislators like them. Neither comes off as highly partisan, and both strike us as thoughtful, intelligent and well-informed.
As we did in 2016, we choose to endorse Vial based on his breadth of experience, especially coming off such an impressive first term. We hope he will continue to work with lawmakers of all stripes to find common ground and move HD 26, the region and Oregon forward, and that he won't spend too much time getting hung up on unrealistic ideas. We believe he can.
As for Neron, it's a shame voters can't send both her and Vial to Salem this time around. We certainly hope to see her again even if she doesn't win this race. She would make an excellent candidate for local office, or she could come back in 2020 or 2022 and run for state office again with the benefit of more experience and time to prepare.