In a primary season as fluky and fractious as this one, it's easy to lose your cool.

For most of the spring, Team Bernie and Team Hillary teetered on the brink of civil war. The Republican Party has been hijacked by a race-baiting reality-TV star. The presidential race is such a train wreck, Oregon is relevant.

Oregon is also a mess.

The Democratic Party controls this state, but isn't sure what to do with it. Portland's rash of rent hikes and explosion of homeless camps have sparked screaming matches on the mayoral campaign trail. If one more candidate tells you this city is "at a crossroads," you're going to toss your ballot in the Willamette River.

Take a deep breath. Fight back that wave of panic. Now listen up:

It's going to be fine.

A primary election is a test of our values. It gives us a chance to ask: What do we really stand for, and who can best deliver on those ideals?

Opportunistic candidates want you to panic, but the truth is that this election offers no shortage of dedicated public servants, fresh ideas and common-sense solutions.

Over the past six weeks, WW has spoken to more than 80 office-seekers from across the state, seeking evidence of independence and leadership.

We're looking for candidates who demonstrate the ability to think outside the platitudes of their party but also aspire to the progressive convictions that we share with this city.

We're also looking to fill Oregon's competency gap.

Too often in this city and state, life is sweet for the political class and its patrons—which means some of them are paying lip service but providing no real solutions for the high-school dropout rate, homelessness or Oregon's decaying infrastructure. We've tried to separate those fakers from the real deals.

Here's how we do that: We invite all the candidates in a race (or on either side of a ballot-measure debate) to make a joint appearance in front of us and our video camera. We're posting all those videos on wweek.com, and we've included transcripts here from five of the most compelling exchanges.

We don't endorse in races where a candidate is running unopposed—so several names, like U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Multnomah County Commission candidate Jessica Vega Peterson, aren't here. As in past years, we also refrain from endorsing in the Oregon attorney general's race, because the incumbent, Ellen Rosenblum, is married to Richard Meeker, co-owner of WW's parent company.

You may not agree with all of our choices. In fact, we're sure some of them will annoy you. But we hope they help you think clearly about the decisions you face in the May 17 election.

And we're confident you'll reach the same conclusion we did: When it comes to Oregon's democracy, there are many reasons to keep the faith.

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