Senate District 21
(Southeast Portland and Milwaukie)
With the retirement of Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, state Rep. Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland), 49, who served one term in the House, faced virtually no opposition in the primary and is in the unusual position of having the nomination of all three of Oregon's major parties: Democrats, Republicans and Independents. She also got the nod from the Working Families Party. She was a write-in candidate for the Republicans and Independents, and it's clear evidence how this district (and much of Portland) lacks real competition between the major parties.
She faces token opposition from the right from a Libertarian candidate, Josh Howard, 29, a financial analyst, who favors abandoning the minimum wage.
Her challenge from the left—James Ofsink, 34, an IT professional at Oregon Health & Science University, nominated by the Progressive and Pacific Green parties—is more formidable. He's raised $20,000, and has a bolder vision for the district, persuasively arguing Oregon needs campaign finance caps.
But Taylor, a former auditor, brings expertise to the key legislative job overseeing slack state agencies, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and is spending much of her energy making government more efficient by collecting the revenue owed to the state by tax dodgers and deadbeat dads.
What reality show would Taylor compete on? Chopped. She's watched at least part of it with her daughter and, as a mom, cooks all the time.
Senate District 22
(Northeast and North Portland)
Sen. Chip Shields announced last year he wouldn't seek re-election to the seat he's held since 2009.
State Rep. Lew Frederick, 64, a former TV reporter and Portland Public Schools spokesman, is seeking a promotion after four terms in the Oregon House.
Frederick is the only black member of the House, and would become the second African-American in the Senate.
He's been vocal about his experience with racial profiling. Frederick says that about once a year, though less often now that he has gray hair, he gets pulled over by police for the offense of driving while black in his neighborhood of Irvington. And he's championed legislation to address it, including a bill passed last year that sets up a statewide system for tracking similar complaints.
He passed legislation to expunge marijuana convictions, which disproportionately affect African-Americans.
Eugene Newell, 48, the Independent Party candidate, is self-employed. He suggested priorities for the Legislature, including sentencing reform, that Frederick is handling more ably.
What reality should would Frederick compete on? America's Got Talent. He'd choose a song by Sam Cooke or Nat King Cole.
Senate District 25
(Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Hood River)
Laurie Monnes Anderson—Democrat
With the death of Sen. Alan Bates (D-Ashland) in August, Laurie Monnes Anderson, 70, a retired nurse, says she's needed to carry on the work of health care reform in Oregon. That may not be a good sign for health care. Anderson, who is serving her sixth term in the Senate, hasn't won much respect from observers, who labeled her "totally clueless" last year in the WW biennial survey on legislators.
Then again, her opponents don't offer a credible alternative.
GOP nominee Tamie Tlustos-Arnold, 47, also a nurse, is a Fairview city commissioner. She proved politically confused by declaring herself a social moderate, then in the next breath proclaiming that life begins at conception. The Libertarian challenger, Jeff Ricks, 29, owns a hobbies and games shop, and his answers to our questions were anecdotal and bordered on incoherent.
What reality show would Monnes Anderson compete on? The Amazing Race. And she would appear with her office manager.
House District 26
(Wilsonville, Sherwood, parts of Tualatin and Hillsboro)
Republican Richard Vial faces Democrat Ray Lister in the race for an open seat, which was held by Republican John Davis for two terms.
Vial, 62, is a semi-retired real estate lawyer and table-grapes farmer, whose priorities include land use and transportation. In two rounds of interviews, he's displayed a firm grasp of the issues that face his district and the state. He also demonstrates a willingness to think independently of party dogma—he's against a cap on tort claims, for example, and sees a need for new tax dollars for the state (though not Measure 97). The lone knock against him: Vial says he's voting for neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, though he wouldn't specify whom.
Lister, 41, an electrician and employee of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 148, appears well-intentioned but is short on specifics. In a coy dodge used often in contested districts this cycle, he refused to say whether he'd vote for Measure 97, even though he argued funding for schools was the most important issue facing the state.
The Democrats were so desperate in this race they tried unsuccessfully to challenge Vial's residency. They failed. And he's the better choice.
What reality show would Vial compete on? The Amazing Race. As an avid birdwatcher, he likes travel.
House District 28
(Aloha and portions of Beaverton)
Jeff Barker likes to describe himself as a Democrat, but "not a Portland Democrat." We'll overlook that rejection—Barker, 73, is one of our favorite members of the majority caucus.
A former Portland police detective, Barker now stumps for smart reforms as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, including changing drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor and adding gradations to the sex-offender registry. He's also one of the Legislature's most independent votes, serving as a watchdog on his own party by not much caring if colleagues approve of him. ("I could go back to being retired real quick," he says.) Among our favorite of his causes: He wants to rein in the Legislature's sprawling even-year short session by requiring that any bill introduced in an off year have 31 signatures.
Republican challenger Gary Carlson, 76, has a long and varied résumé, including serving as a defense attorney on death-penalty cases—which makes it all the more puzzling that he resorts to threadbare GOP talking points about cutting the size of government. Bring back Barker.
What reality show would Barker compete on? He asked if The Price Is Right would count. We allowed it.
House District 29
(Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove)
Susan McLain, 67, a former teacher and four-term Metro councilor, won election two years ago to a first term in the House. McLain's first term didn't exactly wow us—she was all but invisible in Salem. She pledges to improve Hillsboro schools, and we look forward to her showing voters she can.
McClain presents an easy target for a spirited challenger. Instead, the GOP found Juanita Lint. The owner of a vineyard, Lint, 58, wants to reduce government red tape on business—especially her business. She wasn't able to identify meaningful steps she'd take, except stopping the state's minimum-wage increase in its tracks.
McLain needs to step up her game. It would help if she had some competition. For now, send her back to Salem and hope for the best.
What reality show would McLain compete on? Two years ago, she told us her guilty pleasure was watching The Voice. It still is, she says, so she'd choose to go on it.
House District 30
(Hillsboro and North Plains)
There are no thoroughbreds in the race to replace state Rep. Joe Gallegos (D-Hillsboro). Janeen Sollman, 46, an administrator for a software company, gets the nod because of her service on the Hillsboro School Board. She'd like to push for an expanded focus on career technical education (formerly known as shop class) and dual credit courses, which allow students to get a cost-effective jump on college.
That experience gives her a leg up on Republican Dan Mason, a property manager who's run for the seat twice without offering a serious idea. So has Libertarian Kyle Markley, who, despite working for Intel, a large recipient of corporate tax breaks in the state, would like to drown government in a bathtub and opined, "Taxation is theft."
What reality show would Sollman compete on? She's tried out twice for The Amazing Race.
House District 33
(Northwest Portland and Cedar Mill)
Mitch Greenlick is the other oracle of Oregon health care. A former Kaiser Permanente research director and Oregon Health & Science University professor, this 81-year-old policy whiz has played a key role in the state's success delivering health care through coordinated care organizations.
He's now focused on bringing modern public health to the Oregon Coast—where former timber counties are too broke to prepare for the injuries and disease that would follow a tsunami—and forcing nonprofit hospital chains to invest their windfalls from Obamacare back into their hometowns. (He took a timeout from his endorsement pitch to plug his book about his years in the Legislature, with drawings by former Oregonian cartoonist Jack Ohman.)
Greenlick's Republican challenger is John Verbeek, 60, an immigrant from the Netherlands who worked as a risk analyst in the life-insurance business. His agenda if elected doesn't extend far beyond voting against the Democrats' proposals. Greenlick did a better job of describing the positive role the minority party could play in Salem.
What reality show would Greenlick compete on? "The closest I get to a reality TV show is Bill Maher, and that's much more reality than I want."
House District 34
(Washington County, including Cedar Hills, Tanasbourne and Rock Creek)
Incumbent Ken Helm, 51, is running for his second term in the House. A land-use lawyer by trade (who previously worked as a hearings officer, represented developers and worked on staff at Metro), Helm has put his knowledge to good use in the Legislature, taking on committee assignments that play to his knowledge—including the committee for rural communities, land use and water. He has a reputation for calm and balance even in the midst of divisive issues.
One knock against him: Like many of his colleagues in swing districts, he won't say where he stands on Measure 97. In a more competitive race, that might be a problem for us. But Helm's opponent, Independent candidate Donald Hershiser, 62, is a Lowes sales associate who has never run for office before. Helm is the pick.
Helm's reality TV show: Oregon Field Guide. An outdoorsman, he'd actually like to be on that show, even if he wasn't compelled.
House District 35
(Tigard, Metzger and Garden Home)
Margaret Doherty, a former Oregon Education Association official and retired Milwaukie High School teacher, has already served four terms, and will in all likelihood serve another. Doherty, 65, was affectionately described as "not ashamed to be a labor goon," in WW's biennial survey on legislators.
She may not be an independent spirit, but she faces no credible opposition.
Jessica Cousineau, 39, a lawyer and Independent Party candidate, is running on a platform that includes supporting charter schools. But her campaign platform was very narrow in scope.
Doherty remains the sensible choice.
What reality show would Doherty compete on? She wants to produce her own reality TV show: Senior Citizen Bachelorette. "They can't take their shirts off," she says.
House, District 36
(Multnomah Village and Southwest Portland)
Incumbent Jennifer Williamson, 42, has risen through the Democratic ranks to become majority leader in just her second term. She's a former lobbyist and a lawyer, though she no longer practices. She's already proven herself knowledgeable and effective in Salem—passing, for example, a bill to distribute the unclaimed proceeds of class action lawsuits to legal aid rather than letting defendants keep them. She finished at the top of her class in WW's biennial "The Good, the Bad and the Awful" ranking of Portland-area lawmakers.
She's running against Libertarian Amanda Burnham, an accountant with a background in real estate. There's no Republican even trying for Williamson's safely blue seat.
What reality show would Williamson compete on? Top Chef. She makes a "mean imitation" of Pok Pok's fish-sauce chicken wings.
House District 37
(West Linn and parts of Tualatin)
Julie Parrish, 42, who runs a small marketing and communications business, generates more ideas in a week than many lawmakers do in a career. She'd replace wooden pallets with recycled cardboard, harvest wood from urban parks, and offer dozens of ways to make government more transparent. She's passed bills promoting school choice, funding for shop classes and improving veterans' benefits. And she's introduced far more.
A three-term incumbent, she irritates Democrats because she zealously pursues ethics reform and transparency. She irritates Republicans because she won't toe the party line—she lost her leadership position in part because of her support for same-sex marriage.
Her opponent, business lawyer Paul Southwick, 32, is also an iconoclast: a home-schooled former Republican. He's smart and thoughtful but cautious to a fault—he treats his position on Measure 97 like a state secret.
Parrish is a rare breed: a pro-choice Republican woman in a close-in suburban district. She should be celebrated—and re-elected.
What reality show would Parrish compete on? Alaska: The Final Frontier.
House District 38
(Parts of Southwest Portland and Lake Oswego)
Ann Lininger, a former Clackamas County commissioner, was appointed to this seat representing Lake Oswego and parts of Southwest Portland in 2014 after then-state Rep. Chris Garrett resigned to become a judge. In just two years, the Democrat has already played an outsized role in shaping the state's growing cannabis industry as co-chairwoman of the joint House-Senate committee on marijuana legalization. (It's known around the Capitol as the "joint joint" committee, which by Salem standards is a pretty good dad joke.)
Lininger, 48, is smart and well-versed in the problems facing Oregon. A lawyer, she's a clear communicator. Her progressive values are in line with the voters in her district. One of her goals, she says, is to return to Salem to "streamline and simplify" regulation of marijuana businesses.
Patrick De Klotz, also a Lake Oswego lawyer, strikes us as a fairly moderate Republican. De Klotz, 32, says he thinks climate change is a serious threat, and he doesn't support the death penalty. (He's also not a fan of Trump.) But there's a fundamental inconsistency in his political philosophy on at least one point. "I prefer government not to be the solution," he says. Yet he's pro-life and thinks government intervention is the right answer in that case.
Lininger deserves another term.
What reality show would Lininger compete on? Top Chef. "I love to cook," she says. "I love to deviate from recipes."
House District 39
(Canby, Clackamas and Boring)
It takes a strong argument to oust an incumbent legislator—especially a veteran politician like Dr. Bill Kennemer, a retired family psychologist who's held this rural Clackamas County seat since 2009. In the last voting cycle, no Democrat bothered trying to unseat Kennemer, who is affable and described by Salem insiders as a centrist voice in his caucus.
But his challenger, Charles Gallia, made an incisive case. Gallia is a policy adviser to the Oregon Health Authority with a varied biography that includes hand-building his own house on the Clackamas River. He's soft-spoken and courteous—and in our interview, delivered a systematic critique of Kennemer's votes on civil and reproductive rights. Most damaging: Gallia pointed out Kennemer's 2015 vote against a bill banning "conversion therapies" that try to cure people from being gay. Kennemer couldn't explain his vote. That's especially troubling because Kennemer, as a family psychologist, should know better.
Gallia has mettle, along with values that point a way forward for his district. That may not be enough to topple Kennemer, but it wins our endorsement.
What reality show would Gallia compete on? He picked Survivor—the only title he could remember.
House District 40
(Oregon City and Gladstone)
This race comes down to a simple principle: If you want a seat in the Legislature, tell us where you stand.
Evon Tekorius, 54, is the co-owner of a fire investigation firm and an Oregon City School Board member. She and Mark Meek, 52, her Democratic opponent, are pretty comparable candidates: involved in their communities, small-business owners (Meek runs a real estate firm) and reasonably intelligent.
Meek, however, has refused both in the primary and in the general election to state his position on Measure 97, the corporate tax increase that is the biggest issue on the November ballot. Lawmakers make tough votes all the time—no ducking allowed. Add Meek's refusal to state his position to the school board experience Tekorious would bring to a caucus thin on education knowledge and this becomes an easy choice.
What reality show would Tekorius compete on? American Idol.
House District 41
(Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Sellwood and Eastmoreland)
Karin Power displays the inroads the Democratic Party is making in deep-red Clackamas County.
Power, 33, is a lawyer who graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School, moved to Milwaukie with her wife, and won election to the city council there. She is one of only a handful of city councilors under 40 in the Portland metro area (on the Portland City Council, none are under 50). Power told WW last year that serving at the local level in the suburbs was a good way for young people to make an impact.
Now she aspires to go to Salem, with an aim to bring funding home to her district. She readily acknowledges she has lots to learn, though she starts with an expertise in environmental law from her work at the Freshwater Trust. Power, a new mom, showed up to the endorsement interview with her 11-week-old son, Grady. That's a feat in itself.
The baby provided Power's only company in the interview, since her Republican opponent, Timothy McMenamin, 58, declined to attend. McMenamin is a pharmacist and a retread: This is his third run for the Legislature in three election cycles. His past two shots failed, and Power's the better choice this time.
What reality show would Power compete on? The Great British Bake Off.
House District 42
Rob Nosse, 49, is seeking his second term in the Oregon House. We see plenty of reasons to send this representative for the nurses' union back to Salem. Praised as "likable and a quick study" in our biennial survey of Oregon lawmakers, Nosse also earned the title of "Rookie of the Year" for his brains and integrity.
If re-elected, Nosse has several priorities—all of them good matches for a Portland district filled with backyard chickens and blue votes. He wants to hold down the cost of prescription drugs, get dirty diesel out of Oregon and address environmental hazards in our industries and schools. He's already had success, banning conversion therapy and phasing out Styrofoam trays from kids' lunchrooms.
His opponents are James Stubbs, a 46-year-old marketing and sales consultant who's running as an Independent, and Jeremy Wilson, a Libertarian food and beverage supervisor. Neither offers a credible reason for throwing Nosse out.
What reality show would Nosse compete on? The Amazing Race. "It looks like fun," he says.
House District 44
(North and Northeast Portland)
Tina Kotek, 50, a former advocate for low-income families, rose to become House speaker after just three terms. She's held the post for two more sessions without serious challenge. In a caucus that previously alternated between wild-eyed back-stabbery and circular firing squads, Kotek's steely discipline has meant less drama and more production. Although some complain that Kotek steam-rolled major legislation in this year's short session, the speaker delivered major victories on the minimum wage and expanding Oregon's investment in renewable energy, as well as inclusionary zoning. Those are top Democratic priorities, and she can claim credit for them. It's no secret that Kotek has ambitions to be governor.
Her opponent, Green Party candidate Joe Rowe, a high school teacher, wants
Kotek to stop accepting corporate contributions and push harder for tenant protections. He's an activist using the race to make some noise but offers no viable alternative to Kotek.
What reality show would Kotek compete on? Kotek would be a judge on RuPaul's Drag Race.
House District 47
(Parkrose and outer Northeast Portland)
Diego Hernandez, 29, could become the youngest state representative if elected to the seat vacated by Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-Portland), who served two terms and is now Multnomah County commissioner-elect.
Hernandez, who sits on the Reynolds School Board and is the executive director of a small nonprofit that trains up-and-coming social justice leaders, brings with him life experiences rare in Salem. He grew up the child of a single mother, who raised him and three brothers while working fast-food jobs and cleaning houses. He has a master's degree in social work and has worked for OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon—the bus riders' union—and the Community Alliance of Tenants.
Those are two constituencies underrepresented in Salem, where dozens of lawmakers are landlords.
He faces Michael Langley, 62, the Independent Party nominee, who works as a golf-gear consultant. He's a self-described "free market" guy with little in the way of qualifications.
What reality show would Hernandez compete on? The Apprentice. "Just so I could get fired right away and call [Trump] out."
House District 48
(Outer Southeast Portland)
Jeff Reardon, 69, won't get much credit for the groundbreaking minimum-wage hike Oregon passed earlier this year. But the moderate Democrat representing East Portland oversaw the shuttle diplomacy that created three tiers of wage increases: one for Portland, a lower wage for the Willamette Valley, and an even lower one for the rural parts of the state that compete for jobs with Idaho.
The mild-mannered Reardon worked for 21 years as a Tektronix engineer before retiring to the state Capitol. He's had other accomplishments in Salem: He doubled the state funding for career and technical education to $35 million a biennium, and legalized the use of unmanned photo radar to catch speeding drivers. (That's a meaningful reform for his district, where traffic deaths remain a scourge.) But his key role is as a compromise broker in an often bitterly partisan building.
Reardon faces a crowded field of challengers, none presenting much of a threat. Republican George "Sonny" Yellott is a paralegal who serves on the Mt. Hood Community College board, which he has disrupted with bizarre rants. (He told us the cause of Portland's housing crisis is undocumented immigrants taking up apartments.) Libertarian Jeff Dye, a chemical engineer, doesn't think Oregon should have a minimum wage at all. Tim Crawley, an intellectual property lawyer, is on the ballot without a party backing him. He'd like to fund new roads in East Portland, but doesn't make much of a case that he'd be more effective than Reardon.
What reality show would Reardon compete on? Dancing With the Stars.
House District 50
Former Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso won this legislative seat in 2014, pledging to crack down on the perpetrators of domestic violence. She's had limited success on that front: Her flagship bill keeps DV offenders from owning any kind of weapon. She's frank, if not impressively informed. We liked that she had the courage to say she's voting for Measure 97, but wish she had a better understanding of the public-employee pensions that should be in her wheelhouse as a moderate Democrat.
The Republican challenger, Stella Armstrong, directs a program at Mt. Hood Community College to help students struggling to prepare for higher education. Her platform is mostly platitudes. More impressive is the Independent candidate, Michael Calcagno. A former Fox 12 reporter now producing fundraising videos, Calcagno helped lower tuition as a board member at Mt. Hood Community College, and is now pushing for transportation investments in his congested district. At 28, he's still a little green, but we hope he'll run again.
What reality show would Piluso compete on? American Ninja Warrior. "But I would add princess to it," a la Xena: Warrior Princess.
House District 51
(Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus and portions of Southeast Portland)
It's Happy Meals vs. Happy Valley.
Two distinctive candidates are battling to replace Rep. Shemia Fagan, a two-term Democrat stepping down to raise her young children. Her possible Democratic successor, Janelle Bynum, 41, has one of the most interesting résumés in this election cycle: She and her husband own and operate two McDonald's franchises on Portland's Southeast 82nd Avenue. Selling Big Macs gives Bynum a close-up view of the missing sidewalks in East Portland, and a small-business background lacking in the Democratic caucus. She offers nuanced opinions on how Oregon should implement workplace reforms like flexible scheduling.
Her Republican opponent, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, is mayor of Happy Valley, with an impressive record of her own—including support for a six-cent gas tax in hostile territory. The co-founder and business manager of an anesthesiology practice, Chavez-DeRemer, 48, also speaks authoritatively on infrastructure needs—though she concentrates more on streets than sidewalks.
It's an unusual race, flipping the typical script, with a Democrat representing the business lobby and a Republican touting government experience. It's also a close call. We'll give the edge to Bynum, whose values—including a thriving composting program at a McDonald's—more closely match ours.
What reality show would Bynum compete on? So You Think You Can Dance. "My husband and I love to dance."
House District 52
(Hood River, Sandy and Cascade Locks)
There were few easier choices than this contest, which pits Mark Johnson, 59, a building contractor and chairman of the Hood River County School Board, against Mark Reynolds, 60, a recently retired schoolteacher.
During his three terms in the House, Johnson has consistently formed partnerships with Democratic lawmakers to push for moderate solutions to some of the Legislature's enduring problems. He worked with former Rep. Chris Harker (D-Beaverton) and former Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, to try to align school budgeting, which is done by 197 local districts with revenue from the state. He teamed up with state Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) to pass (almost) free community college and has, with Hass, proposed a compromise bill for a more modest tax increase than Measure 97.
Reynolds is a nice guy, but he's a rubber stamp for public employee unions that have plenty of those already.
What reality show would Johnson compete on? Survivor, because he's an outdoorsman and contractor who could put his skills to use.
Correction: Our endorsement of Carla Piluso incorrectly stated that she opposes Measure 97. She supports it. WW regrets the error.