Profiles: Learn more about the finalists in House District 38
In the weeks following former Rep. Ann Lininger's appointment to a Clackamas County Circuit Court judgeship, The Review has published profiles of the contenders for her House District 38 seat.
On Monday, four of those candidates — Andrea Salinas, Theresa Kohlhoff, Joe Buck and Neil Simon — were chosen as finalists by Democratic Precinct Committee Persons. Their names will now be submitted to the boards of commissioners in Multnomah and Clackamas counties for a final vote.
Learn more about the nominating process and its next steps here. The profiles of the four finalists are reprinted below:
Salinas, who lives with her husband and daughter in Lake Oswego, is one of the founding organizers of LO for LOve, a grassroots organization that advocates for diversity, awareness and kindness in the community. Her father immigrated to the United States from Mexico.
"I have always believed that we have a responsibility to do our part," she said. "I am honored to have the opportunity to be considered to serve the people of our community in Salem and proud to have the endorsement of so many respected neighbors and organizations."
Those endorsements include former state Rep. Greg MacPherson; Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson; Lake Oswego School Board member Rob Wagner; Doug Moore, executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters; Grayson Dempsey, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon; and Mary Nolan, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.
Recently added to the list of backers: the Oregon Education Association.
Salinas currently is the Oregon vice president of Strategies 360, a consulting firm with offices in a dozen states and in Washington, D.C. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, she has owned her own legislative campaign consulting business, managed the legislative agenda for the Oregon Environmental Council and worked in a variety of roles for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, U.S. Rep. Pete Stark and U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley.
"For more than 20 years, I have been working to protect and pass policies that help women and children, working people, seniors and the environment," Salinas told The Review. "I am the only candidate with a proven record of bringing state elected leaders together. I have successfully worked to pass laws that increase the statewide minimum wage, reduce vehicle pollution and provide all women equal access to affordable reproductive health care."
If appointed to the state Legislature, she says her priorities will include stabilizing school funding, lowering prescription drug prices and working on environmental issues.
"I am ready to fight to fully fund public education, hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable to lower drug prices and make polluters pay for the harm they are imposing on our health, our children's health and our environment," Salinas said.
Kohlhoff, who has built a 37-year career as a private practice attorney and small-business owner, became involved in politics when she ran for a seat on Lake Oswego's City Council last year. Her campaign platform emphasized affordable housing and public transportation, and she's become a vocal advocate for those causes during her first seven months on the council.
Last week, she earned an endorsement from the group Independents for Progressive Action.
"The voters were right to trust me," she says. "One of my issues, economical housing, went on to become a council goal for 2017, and I am at the forefront of working out strategies with council and staff."
Kohlhoff graduated from Portland State University and later received her law degree from Lewis and Clark College's Northwestern School of Law. Her law career has included work on a wide range of cases, including personal injury, criminal law, domestic relations, real estate, commercial lien foreclosure and probate. She has also served on the Board of Governors of the Oregon State Bar.
"It is my profession to be a formidable advocate for my clients, no matter how mighty the corporation or adversary," she says, "but also to be a plain speaker, clearly outlining the state of play."
As a candidate for the HD 38 seat, Kohlhoff has been eager to tout her progressive credentials. But she says her time on the council has shown a record of collaborative accomplishments, even though a majority of the council falls to her ideological right.
"While municipal issues are different than state-level ones, the ability to do the homework required, to listen patiently to experts and citizens, to communicate clearly and to vote thoughtfully are the same," she says. "A true progressive can make things happen that would be unheard of otherwise, and I am doing that."
She has called for a "Medicare for all" system for Oregon and a progressive income tax to increase revenue and solve the impending PERS financial crunch. She's also continuing her push for affordable housing and improved public transit.
"Few really doubt that climate change is happening," she says, "and all probably know in their hearts that it is due to fossil fuels. Yet they don't want to face not being car-centric, and leaders are dawdling on funding transit."
Buck was raised in Lake Oswego and currently operates two restaurants in the city, Gubanc's Restaurant and Babica Hen Cafe, as well as a second branch of Babica Hen in Dundee and a boutique inn in Oregon's wine country. He has served on the Lake Oswego City Council since 2014.
Buck, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, received a degree in business administration from the University of Portland. He initially worked in public accounting and also helped manage Gubanc's, his family's restaurant. He eventually took over operations at Gubanc's and subsequently opened his other three businesses.
"I worked side-by-side with my father, Mike Buck, at Gubanc's in Lake Grove," he says, "learning how to operate a business rooted in values that promote equality and respect for all, caring deeply for our family of employees and being active stewards of the community."
Buck's tenure on the City Council has focused on advocating for a range of progressive policies, including environmental protection, public transportation and engaging youth in local politics. He helped found Lake Oswego's Youth Leadership Council in 2016 and serves as the group's liaison to the council.
"I will deliver the same passionate yet effective diplomacy that has served me well on the Lake Oswego City Council to Salem," he says, "to fight effectively for you and for the current and future health of our district and state."
His campaign has received endorsements from a number of public officials in Lake Oswego, including City Councilors John LaMotte and Jackie Manz, former Councilor Jon Gustafson, School Board members Sara Pocklington and John Wallin, and former Mayor Judy Hammerstad.
Buck says he is committed to helping working Oregonians, and says his record as a small business owner shows he has pursued policies that promote wage equality, healthy work environments and respect for all. He also lists health care, education and affordable housing as priorities for his campaign.
"I have been a strong advocate for programs and policies that promote public health and a sustainable future," he says. "And I will fervently advocate for the changes all Oregonians deserve to ensure bright and prosperous years ahead."
Neil H. Simon
Simon is a third-generation Oregonian who graduated from Northwestern University and initially pursued a career in journalism "with the romantic notion that if I told people's stories well, we could inspire civic participation."
An award-winning documentary filmmaker, he says he transitioned to political advocacy so that he could take even more of a stand. As a communications director for U.S. senators, for example, he helped write "Russian sanctions to defend human rights, environmental legislation to hold energy companies accountable and laws to add transparency to our democratic election process that is eroding beneath us if we don't stand up to protect it."
Currently a partner at Bighorn Communications, Simon's policy work on the state and national level has emphasized increased transparency in the fields of energy, port and homeland security and electoral governance. His recent work includes advising Ted Wheeler during his campaign for mayor of Portland.
Simon now lives in Hillsdale with his wife and three children, but he's quick to point out that he worked at a Kienow's grocery store in Lake Oswego as a teen.
"As an advocate for social justice, I'm proud of the work Clackamas and Multnomah County Democrats are doing to lead the resistance to this sham presidency, and I stand with those leading the effort to block the GOP agenda that would roll back the clock on progressive gains," he told The Review. "But I am seeking this appointment to do more than resist. I want us to reimagine politics.
"That means championing health care for all, strengthening education, addressing income inequality and assuring affordable housing," Simon said.
If he's appointed to the HD38 seat, Simon said he will also focus on transportation issues beyond the $5.2 billion package that passed the Legislature earlier this month.
"If we can create more commuter options with mass-transit, bike lanes and express lanes, we can shorten commutes, give people more time with their families, reduce carbon emissions and combat global warming," he said. "We love our pocket of Oregon for the quality of life it brings. Now it's up to us to work to conserve it for the next generation."