Politics, real estate intersect in Oregon statehouse race
Josh Howard was nominated by the Republican Party to challenge Democratic State Rep. Mark Meek for the district that includes Oregon City, Gladstone, Johnson City and parts of unincorporated Clackamas County.
Howard won the Republican primary election by getting nearly 60% of the vote against Dan Tooze in unofficial May 19 returns. Both remaining contestants in the race are veterans; Howard served in the U.S. Navy and Meek in the Air Force.
Howard lives in the Oregon City house previously owned by Brent Barton, who preceded Meek as the Democratic representative for House District 40. According to the county assessor's office, Howard purchased the 3,530-square-foot house on Jefferson Street from Barton in November 2017 for $442,500; Barton had paid $310,000 for the property in November 2011.
Meek's 2692-square-foot house in unincorporated Gladstone was purchased for $316,500 in 2005.
Meek is a longtime Realtor and small-business owner. He has coached high school football, served on the Clackamas County Planning Commission and was chair of the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce.
Howard, the controller for Portland-based PlusPoint strategic financial consulting services, unsuccessfully ran for state senator in 2016, when he was a Milwaukie resident living in the 21st District. The first member of his family to graduate from high school, he holds a master's degree in business administration from Arizona State University and a bachelor's degree in finance from Oregon State University.
Meek was first elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in November 2016, defeating his Republican opponent by nearly eight points in one of Oregon's most competitive house districts. He won reelection by an approximately 10% margin in 2018.
During his freshman term in the Oregon Legislature, Meek upset fellow landlord/investors by supporting a bill to lift a statewide ban on rent control. In writing an amendment to the tenant-protection bill passed by the House, he also upset tenant advocates by paring mandatory relocation assistance payments to tenants from the equivalent of three months rent to one month of rent.
Meek's election set the stage for rent control to return as an issue in the next legislative session. The first bill signed into law during the 2019 legislative session limited landlords across the state to raising rents by 7% per year, plus the annual change in the consumer price index.
When the bill passed, Meek said housing displacement was a devastating reality for too many Oregonians.
"Oregon is facing a statewide housing crisis," Meek said. "Many landlords do right by their tenants, but unreasonable rent increases and no-cause evictions are destabilizing our most vulnerable families."
Howard said rent control will not solve the current housing crisis.
"Rent control has proven time and time again to backfire and have unintended consequences," Howard said. "It is just one in another of bad-faith measures that do not address the core issue this state has in fostering an environment where abundant housing options can exist."
Tooze raised about $5,000 while Howard raised $2,000 for their primary campaigns.
So far in 2020, Meek's campaign has received about $12,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. The reelection campaign has more than $10,000 to spend.
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