In field with several impressive candidates, one Democrat emerged as the clear choice, in part because she has a day job that gives her invaluable insight for these troubling times.
Lisa Reynolds — like Maxine Dexter, our pick for District 33 — is a physician. And when the 2021 Legislature convenes, if someone asks, "Is there a doctor in the House?" we'd like to see multiple hands shoot up.
Due to a complicated and condensed endorsement schedule, Dexter and Reynolds ended up in the same group that met with our editorial board on March 12, the last day we met candidates in person. Reynolds, a pediatrician, took pains to defer to Dexter, a pulmonary specialist, as the medical expert on COVID-19, but it was clear that she, too, was eager to obtain a platform in Salem.
"The state leadership on this has been downright frightening," Reynolds said a few hours after Gov. Brown ordered schools to close for two weeks. "We're late to the game."
In a state where Democrats seem destined to control most of the levers in government, we need lawmakers willing to publicly disagree and even criticize their partisan colleagues. Reynolds was part of a group of physicians urging Brown to extend the school closures and implement a statewide "stay home" order — a move that would not come for another 11 days.
"We have been calling on the governor," Reynolds said, "and I feel like there has been a bit of a deaf ear."
After 25 years in exam rooms with kids and their parents, Reynolds has come to some very strong conclusions.
• Tying health care coverage to the vagaries of employer's insurance plans is a recipe for inequity.
• Ignoring the health, including the mental health, of parents fails our children in a variety of ways.
• The lack of affordable housing is a health care problem.
• Oregon needs to fund universal statewide pre-school and affordable childcare.
Her three challengers to replace outgoing Rep. Jennifer Williamson likely wouldn't dispute any of those points, though each would bring a different focus to the job.
Of the three we met, Adam Meyer is the most impressive. He is the only candidate who grew up this deep-blue district, which catches most of downtown Portland, a portion of Northwest and almost all of the city's Southwest neighborhoods.
And he has the most eclectic résumé, with an undergraduate degree path that took him from Oregon to Washington, D.C., and Ecuador. Meyer worked for the Obama White House (on energy issues) and a pair of brainy Oregon state lawmakers (former Rep. Jackie Dingfelder and former Sen. Richard Devlin). And, not for nothing, he once ran across the country to hear from community members about how to better connect with their governments.
His current job as a policy analyst for the state forestry department would be useful in a caucus viewed with mistrust by many Republicans living in timber communities, as would his family history: his grandfather was a logger and his dad worked for the Audubon Society.
Indeed, Meyer — who describes himself as a social liberal and fiscal conservative — said one of the reasons he's running is his concern that too many of his fellow Democrats are taking their marching orders from a specific group, whether it's organized labor, school officials, the health care lobby or lawyers.
We share Meyer's concern, which is why we have some concerns about fellow-candidate Laurie Wimmer. A longtime lobbyist for the statewide teachers union, Wimmer is well-known and well-respected in Salem. Her knowledge of the challenges facing teachers and students would certainly find a use in the Legislature, as would her experience raising two foster children who escaped family trauma and who she later adopted.
But we wonder whether after she could show the kind of independence we saw in Reynolds and was promised by Adams.
The fourth Democrat running, Rob Fullmer, would be, by our count, the only bona-fide rocket scientist the Oregon Legislature. The MIT-trained aero science major now works as a technology planner for Portland State University and works on environmental issues for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Self-described as "very liberal," he's picked up a smattering of endorsements from local elected officials and unions. As with the others in this race we hope he finds a way to stay involved in public policy issues if he doesn't end up in the statehouse.
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