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Campaign season is upon us

It’s election time, and that means it’s time to partner up. The partisan lines have now been drawn, and most of the legislators representing our region of the state will have opponents in the 2014 election cycle.

Regardless of whether we like and support a particular candidate, we believe it is good for the voters and healthy for our system of government when legislators are required to explain and/or defend their votes and the philosophies they’ve espoused while in Salem. Having a competitive contest ensures there will be a healthy airing of different ideas.

Our corner of Washington County is served primarily by five legislators, including state Sens. Bruce Starr (R) and Betsy Johnson (D), and state Reps. Ben Unger (D), Joe Gallegos (D) and John Davis (R). As the letter denoting the political parties these respective legislators belong to indicates, our region is represented almost equally among Democrats and Republicans. That allows for a good representation of viewpoints, and it also indicates that our area is considered a swing district in which neither major party dominates.

This factor not only encourages competition, it also makes for more competitive races when there is competition. We think that’s good for the voters.

The deadline for candidates to file to run for a particular office came on March 11, and there was one late entry. In Senate District 15, Hillsboro resident Chuck Riley — who also ran against Starr in 2010 — decided to make another attempt to capture the District 15 Senate seat. Starr won in 2010 by a relatively narrow 52 percent to 47 percent. With the district generally perceived to be trending more toward the Democratic Party in recent years — and despite Starr’s overall popularity, his moderate stances and his demonstrated ability to work in a bipartisan manner — Starr cannot afford to take anything for granted.

This should be a very interesting contest between two experienced, politically-savvy candidates.

Not being able to take anything for granted also holds true in the two contested races for the Oregon House of Representatives. Joe Gallegos and Ben Unger, two freshmen Democrats elected in 2012, have both drawn Republican opponents.

Unger, who has been a leading Democratic Party figure in the fight to gain more funding for school districts across the state, is facing a challenge from Mark Richman, a deputy district attorney with Washington County. Gallegos, a champion of providing scholarships to low-income students and those who are the first of their family to attend college, will go up against Dan Mason, who works for Prime Group, a management company for apartment communities across the western United States.

Generally, legislators are deemed to be most vulnerable in their first re-election campaign, when their name recognition in the district has not yet had time to gel and their base of power has not yet solidified. (This is especially true in congressional races. The two major political parties often target newcomers, believing them to be the most vulnerable, and pour in more money than they otherwise might have.)

So we were not a bit surprised the Democratic Party found a challenger to run against freshman Republican John Davis, who, although he resides in Wilsonville, represents a wedge of land from southeast Hillsboro to the western area of Aloha. On Tuesday, the final day to file, Eric Squires of Aloha — coordinator of the Hillsboro Empowers Youth organization — signed up to challenge Davis.

But we were surprised that as of late Tuesday, Republicans had not mounted a challenge to incumbent Sen. Betsy Johnson of Warren, who represents an area that includes Banks and wraps around to portions of Forest Grove and other areas of northwest Washington County. Johnson will apparently be unopposed in 2014, and as a result, voters will not have as much of an opportunity to engage in an open political discourse in this race.

Now that the lineups are set, we hope and expect to see some public forums in which the opposing candidates can meet face to face to debate and answer questions from groups of voters. We’ll be there to cover these events, and we’ll be interested in following the trail of money behind these campaigns.

All in all, with three of the five area legislative races being contested, it should prove to be an enlightening spring, summer and fall as these campaigns go forward.




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