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Party activist files elections complaint against Starr


A longtime Democratic Party activist has filed an elections complaint against Republican state Sen. Bruce Starr of Hillsboro.

The complaint was filed with the Elections Division of the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office July 31 by retired educator Paul Erickson, Jr. It charges that Starr violated state elections laws by sending a campaign fundraising letter to people who contacted him through his legislative email account. State law prohibits the use of public resources for campaign purposes.

Starr admits sending the letter to people who contacted him though his legislative email account, but denies violating the law. He said the names and addresses are public record, like every contact made to his office.

“The complaint is politics, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with anything but politics,” said Starr, who represents Senate District 15 and is up for re-election in 2014.

Erickson said he has been active in the Washington County Democratic Party since moving to Hillsboro eight years ago. He is a Democratic precinct committee officer and regularly attends monthly meetings of the Democratic Party of Washington County. Erickson said he has also worked on the campaigns of numerous Democratic candidates, including the campaigns of Ben Unger and Joe Gallegos, who were elected to the Oregon House of Representatives last year.

Erickson also said he consulted with the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund before filing the complaint. The fund, which works to elect Democrats to the Oregon Senate, announced the complaint in a press release on Aug. 1.

But Erickson said he did not file the complaint for partisan purposes.

“I’m a pretty ethical guy. When people play fast and loose with the public’s money, that bothers me,” said Erickson.

Starr is a self-employed public affairs. He has served in the Oregon Legislature since 1999, when he was elected to the Oregon House from Hillsboro. He was elected to the State Senate in 2002 and is currently vice-chair of the Senate Business & Transportation Committee and sits on the Senate Rules Committee.

According to Erickson’s complaint, the day after the 2013 Oregon Legislature ended, Starr emailed a fundraising letter to people who agreed with his position in opposition to gun control.

“Thank you for writing to me (and other legislators) in defense of our 2nd Amendment rights this session,” the letter began.

“I believe this violates the state’s election laws and shows a lack of integrity and respect for ensuring that taxpayer money is not used for personal or campaign benefit,” Erickson wrote in his complaint.

There is no deadline for the Elections Division to decide whether to investigate the complaint, or when the investigation must be completed.

Washington County has grown increasingly more Democratic over time. It now has 111,469 registered Democrats and 86,206 registered Republicans. The third largest category is 70,847 non-affiliated voters.

The Democratic Party targeted House District 29 and House District 30 in the 2012 elections. At the time, District 29 was held by Republican Katie Eyre and District 30 was held by Republican Shawn Lindsay. In the general election, Democrat Unger defeated Eyre and Gallegos defeated Lindsay, helping the Democrats take control of the Oregon House.

Although no Democrat has yet announced to compete against Starr, Erickson said he has heard that several candidates are considering entering the race.