Reader, beware: What follows is mostly gossip and opinion.
Ever since 1977, when we first published our Good, Bad and Awful survey grading state lawmakers, we've started with the preceding warning.
Our goal is to provide readers a candid appraisal of the metro-area legislators who craft Oregon's laws and shape its nearly $21 billion budget.
The 2017 legislative session began with high hopes. Oregon is part of a vanishing herd of blue states, one of only six in which Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's mansion. One-party control presents many risks, but failure to accomplish difficult tasks should not be one of them.
For the past couple of sessions, Democrats have taken advantage of that control on behalf of students, workers and environmentalists. In the 2015 regular session and the 2016 short session, lawmakers passed big school funding increases, hiked the minimum wage, passed family sick leave legislation and expanded the state's commitment to renewable energy.
This year's session is likely to be remembered more for gridlock.
While the session still has nearly two weeks to go, it seems almost certain that lawmakers will fail to address bloated public employee costs or our dysfunctional tax system. At press time, they were still negotiating a transportation funding deal.
Other Democratic priorities, including gun control measures, tighter restrictions on diesel emissions and measures aimed at easing Oregon's housing crisis, stalled.
Part of the key to understanding why so little has happened in Salem in 2017 is that while Democrats have a majority, the rules are such that in order to raise taxes, they need a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber. Democratic majorities are 35 to 25 in the House and 17 to 13 in the Senate, each one vote short of the required super majority. In search of GOP support, Ds held back on policy bills.
Among the accomplishments as of this writing are a hospital provider tax increase; a pay equity bill; and possibly (it has not yet passed) a bill requiring employers to give employees advance notice of their work schedules. Worthwhile and important, yes, but pretty small beer. Meaning Oregonians may have to go back to the ballot for substantive tax reform—which is like performing brain surgery with a chainsaw.
So how well do individual senators and representatives perform in the Capitol? At times they've come across as courageous statesmen and stateswomen, and at others, as craven skunks.
To put together this ranking, we asked Capitol experts to grade legislators in the categories of integrity, brains and effectiveness. (See sidebar below for our methods.) Their overall ratings are an average of those three figures with cut-offs at each even number.
The comments in these surveys can be impolite, even cruel. But in some ways, that's the point—to offer you a peek at what the people who work alongside powerful figures really think of them.
Here are their grades:
SEN. RICHARD DEVLIN
Overall Rating: 8.93
Devlin's position at the top of this survey is as predictable as the traffic congestion on Highway 99W running through his district. He's been rated "excellent" in our survey for the past five seasons. As co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, he is the building's undisputed budget expert. In 2016, the gnomic retired legal investigator, 64, tried to launch himself out of the Senate, where he's served since 2003, by running for Secretary of State. He finished third in the Democratic primary, a result attributable to his retiring personality. This session he spent most of his time balancing the budget. He also worked on Senate Bill 1067, a cost-containment bill designed to make government more efficient and aid the case for new tax revenue. It died.
"Without him, the Senate could not function," says one fan. "Devlin has the intellectual horsepower to lead the Legislature through the minefield of revenue raising negotiations," says another lobbyist. "The challenge is rounding up enough sane legislators to follow him." "The best senator," says one veteran lobbyist.
SEN. MARK HASS
Overall Rating: 7.59
Nobody attached himself more closely to a single issue than Hass, 60, a lanky former KATU-TV reporter turned brand manager, who chairs the Senate Revenue Committee and co-chairs the Tax Credit and Tax Reform committees. He is Salem's Sisyphus, pushing tax reform up a hill steeper than Mt. Hood. This year, he helped pass a law offering free community college to returning vets. Now in his fifth Senate session, Hass has grown. Lobbyists say early in his career, it was all about Hass. Now he's become the rarest of lawmakers: one motivated by serving the public's interest rather than narrow special interests. "Tasked with the impossible: raising taxes in a meaningful way," says a lobbyist. "His clout has grown considerably," says another.
SEN. ELIZABETH STEINER HAYWARD
Overall Rating: 7.02
The co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Human Services, Steiner Hayward, 54, put her shoulder behind a bill that would have raised the legal age for purchasing tobacco to 21. (It's stalled at this writing, thanks in large part to tobacco lobbyist and former Sen. Margaret Carter, D-Portland.) Steiner Hayward passed a bill aimed at upping Oregonians' use of earned income tax credits, which is among the nation's lowest. She's a doctor, a fact she mentions more regularly than many people would like. Others note she often seems more comfortable with fellow sawbones Dr. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) than members of her own party. "The Senator from Did You Know I'm a Doctor and My Kid Goes to Harvard," sniffs another, repeating a common criticism. "Some politicians are ambitious for power; she is ambitious because she thinks she can do better," says a veteran lobbyist who thinks Steiner Hayward's confidence is well-founded. "Much of the time she is right."
SEN. MICHAEL DEMBROW
Overall Rating: 6.92
If Dembrow, 65, were a car, he'd be a Prius—a white Prius—rolling quietly through the halls of Salem. The low-key Portland Community College instructor chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. However, he was unable to pass much significant legislation, which may account for the biggest drop in scores of any lawmaker this year, down half a point from 2015.
"Had a very hard time moving bills out of his own committee," says a veteran lobbyist. His big push this session, tighter rules for diesel emissions, failed. But he did pass a bill tightening regulations on suction dredge mining in Oregon rivers. "Open door, open mind, works harder to understand issues than any other legislator," says a supporter. "Maybe try to figure out what's possible, not just what you want," says a skeptic.
SEN. GINNY BURDICK
Overall Rating: 6.75
Burdick, 69, a former journalist turned public relations consultant, has served in the Senate for 20 years. Elected majority leader in 2015, she is a loyal lieutenant to Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem). Long the Senate's most zealous gun control advocate, she gets blamed for her colleagues failure to pass the modest gun control measures Democrats teed up this session. As co-chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation, she passed SB 1057, which will allow the OLCC to crack down on excess marijuana "leaking" from the medical market.
Most veteran lawmakers saw their scores increase this year but Burdick's ticked down a hair. "Hard-working, smart enough, decent and determined," says one veteran observer." "Her values are with us, but she has little ability to stand up to the crazy pants Senate president," says one Democratic lobbyist. "She's been working on the same issue for 20 years [gun control] and has done I'm not sure what with it," says another observer. "Even though she's majority leader."
SEN. LEW FREDERICK
Overall Rating: 6.62
Frederick, 65, a genial teddy bear who was once a journalist and is now a communications consultant, moved up to the Senate this session, replacing former Sen. Chip Shields, who retired. He keeps a vintage Epiphone acoustic guitar in his office to ward off stress, and saw his overall score move up this session, nearly half a point from 2015. He's endured personal health challenges and the death of a longtime aide. As the only black man in the Legislature for the past eight years, he carried an out-sized burden and his improving scores are informed by the fact that he often focuses on neglected constituencies (Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene), who is also black, was appointed in December). Frederick sponsored House Bill 2855, which creates K-12 ethnic studies curricula standards, and SB 690, a bill that helps convicts qualify for housing and jobs.
The comments on Frederick showed an unusual degree of disagreement. "Has grown into a solid legislator," says one lobbyist. "Super nice guy," one observer says. "Super ineffective." "He's just there," says another lobbyist. "Cordial, polite but irrelevant to the major discussions happening in the building."
SEN. KATHLEEN TAYLOR
Overall Rating: 6.23
Taylor, 50, served just one term in the House before moving to the Senate. She brought her background as an auditor and green eyeshade with her, injecting some energy into Salem's wax museum. She helped save a successful equal pay law from the scrap heap, helped strengthen the law protecting workers' rights to unionize and passed bills that cracked down on sex traffickers and eased up on those who are trafficked. "Does not speak often but makes good points when she does," says one observer. "Understands numbers a lot more than policy," says another respondent. Several commenters suggested Taylor would benefit from a dose of humility. "You can't tell her much because she already knows it….her way or the highway."
SEN. CHUCK THOMSEN
Overall Rating: 6.57
Like the fruit he grows in his Hood River pear orchards, Thomsen, 60, is generally sweet. Lobbyists praise his self-deprecating sense of humor and willingness to listen. A lawmaker who's spent his six-year career in the minority, he's like an understudy in a Broadway musical: He knows the tune and memorizes the lyrics but rarely gets to sing. He did pass a bill allowing cider businesses to operate on land zoned exclusively for farming.
"If rural Oregon is to have a representative in the Tri-County area, Hood River's Mr. Green Jeans is your guy," one lobbyist says. "He's so dumb," says another lobbyist. "Really fucking nice though. I love meeting with him—the pears are delicious."
SEN. LAURIE MONNES ANDERSON
Overall Rating: 6.09
Monnes Anderson, 71, the chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, saw her score rise nearly a third of a point. The retired public health nurse is serving her seventh session in the Senate after two in the House. As dynamic as a five-foot stack of copier paper, she's useful but never surprising. She was a chief sponsor of a high profile tenant protection bill that is stalled in the Senate at this writing, and also worked on birth control coverage and veterans bills still alive in the session's waning days.
"She's not the brightest crayon in the box and if you want her support, you better be the last voice she hears," a lobbyist says. Others think she's sharper than she gets credit for. "Over-underestimated," says one fan. But most comments damned with faint praise: "When she is working on something she understands, she is a strong and effective advocate."
SEN. ROD MONROE
Overall Rating: 5.53
Monroe, 74, first won elected office in 1976, the year before the Blazers won their only NBA championship. He's served on the David Douglas School Board, the Mt. Hood Community College Board and three terms on the Metro Council. The owner of a large East Portland apartment building, Monroe showed little interest in tenants' rights. Advocates even followed the lay preacher to church this session to blast him for voting against tenant protections. "He's great on education (he'll tell you that every time he meets with you) but what else?" says one advocate. "A poster geezer for term limits," writes another correspondent. "Should be evicted from the Senate with cause," says a progressive lobbyist.
SEN. CHUCK RILEY
Overall Rating: 5.24
Riley loves the Blazers and surfer-dude footwear. "He thinks he's Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High," says one lobbyist. He's a regular in the lower bowl at the Moda Center and in the lower tier of this survey—although his rating this year jumped by more than a full point. A retired IT consultant, Riley, 78, chairs the Committee on General Government and Accountability. He passed a bill cracking down on predatory towing and created a task force to address veterans' PTSD. Despite his improved scores, he's still near the basement. "His shoes are usually much brighter than he is," sniffs one critic." A poster man-child for term limits," says another lobbyist.
SEN. ALAN OLSEN
Overall Rating: 4.83
A general contractor, Olsen, 69, has struggled to make his mark in Salem in six years. Lobbyists say he's unfailingly pleasant, but also the first guy to put the arm on them when session ends. Although he was a chemistry major at Purdue, Olsen is a strident climate-change denier. "His extreme prejudice against facts or science of any kind is scary and makes me discount his positions on other issues," writes one respondent. "Nice guy," says one of the kinder assessments. Others were less generous. "Clackamas County called and is missing its village idiot," said a lobbyist.
For 40 years, WW has been surveying those who work in the state Capitol about their opinions of Portland-area legislators.
In May, we send surveys to the state's registered lobbyists, legislative staff and news reporters who regularly cover the Capitol. We solicit views from a wide range of people, representing labor, business and other interests.
This year, we received 45 surveys back. We loaded the results into a spreadsheet and supplemented them with a review of legislation and conversations with current and former lawmakers. We guarantee that the respondents will be anonymous, which we believe is the best way to get an unvarnished and accurate opinion.
The result may irk legislators, but even critics see the value of the exercise. "I hate the Good, Bad and Awful," says one former lawmaker. "But I can't wait to read it."
REP. JEFF BARKER
Overall Rating: 8.15
Barker, 74, an even-tempered ex-Portland cop, runs the House Judiciary with the calm of someone who spent his career defusing crises. He's an ideal lawmaker in many ways: he brings a cop's skepticism, an insider's view of government and represents one of the most diverse districts in the state. Known for off-color jokes and a willingness to work across the aisle, he's less progressive than liberals in his caucus would like but a staunch Democrat who was a chief sponsor of a birth control equity bill stuck in committee at deadline.
"Possibly the most effective legislator behind closed doors," says one admirer. "Scary smart as well." "Effectiveness stems from his ability to stay in his lane and focus, a talent lacking among many others," says another lobbyist.
REP. TINA KOTEK
Kotek, 50, is in her third term as House speaker, tying former Portland Mayor Vera Katz for the longest serving female speaker. She is tight-lipped about her plans and, for a politician, uncharacteristically media-shy and dismissive of talk about higher office. "Everybody (but Tina) wants Tina to run against the governor," says one lobbyist.
This session she stamped her brand on a package of bills aimed at the housing shortage afflicting Portland and many other parts of the state. The bills are stalled at this writing. She's earned a reputation as an unyielding leader who dives into the weeds of bills, sometimes at the expense of progress. Her scores took a hit this session. "Listens to all the wrong people," says a left-leaning observer, referring to Kotek's closeness to public employee unions. Others still gush with praise. "Was Wonder Woman actually based on her?" writes one admirer. Some blame this session's lack of major accomplishments on Kotek's unwillingness to compromise. "When the building blows up, look no further than Speaker Kotek," says a Capitol veteran. "You'd think 'negotiate' would enter into her vocabulary after all these years."
REP. JENNIFER WILLIAMSON
As the House majority leader, Williamson, 43, is next in command to Kotek. Williamson's scores tumbled nearly half a point from 2015. "If only she could get the speaker to listen to her more often, she'd be more effective," says one observer. A sunny, personable lawmaker who enjoys end-of-day socializing more than most, she also chairs the House Rules Committee and is widely believed to want to be Attorney General someday. Her focus, beyond herding a fractious caucus, is criminal justice reform. This year, she passed a bill extending Oregon's prohibition on private prisons and again tried (unsuccessfully) to expand the recording of grand juries.
"She manages to be friendly and cheerful and stylish and cool, while also getting shit done," says a progressive lobbyist. "Intimidatingly smart." There's a feeling among several respondents that Williamson struggled to balance her responsibility to manage her caucus with her personal ambitions. "The entire Dem caucus is helping her with her (future) Attorney General bid, whether they want to or not."
REP. ROB NOSSE
Nosse, 49, a former nurse's union lobbyist, is a packrat who wins the award for greatest volume of paper in a legislative office. A rising star who was Rookie of the Year in 2015, he learned the limits of his power this session. As vice-chair of the House Health Care Committee, he went to war with Big Pharma, hoping to cap and, in some cases, slash drug costs for Oregonians. Pharma said "no." He did pass a bill that gives community college students greater control over student fees. "He's authentic, not ego-driven, with street smarts and a natural ability to negotiate," says one lobbyist. "Model Oregon progressive Democrat," says another. The knock on him is although he's got an extraordinarily safe seat, he's risk averse and can be unfocused. "Seems to take on way too much to successfully get issues and concepts across the finish line," says one veteran lobbyist.
REP. MITCH GREENLICK
At 82, Greenlick, as wise as he is crotchety, still cracks a mean whip as chair of the House Health Care Committee, where complexity, acronyms and big numbers meet in a brain-taxing goulash of legislation. A former professor at OHSU and director of research at Kaiser, he's long been the Legislature's intellectual leader on medical issues. He's impatient with the faux courtesies characteristic of legislative discourse and his peevishness wears on some people.
"He has transformed and improved health care," says an admirer. "He may be the legislator with the highest integrity." Several lobbyists commented on how long Greenlick, who has battled advanced cancer and two hip replacements, can continue. "Mitch at 50 percent is better than most at full speed," observes one lobbyist. Others are ready with the gold watch. "Seems like he should retire and give someone else a chance," one says.
REP. BARBARA SMITH WARNER
In her second term, Smith Warner, 50, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), works the building like a savvy, partisan Energizer Bunny. Smith Warner co-chairs the Ways and Means Education Subcommittee, and serves on seven committees, more than any other House Democrat. "She's like the number one assister in the league," observes one lobbyist. "You need to get something done, this lady will make it happen." "Smart, courageous and well-organized," says one progressive lobbyist. "Does her homework and knows her stuff." Business lobbyists like her less. "Kotek's yipping Chihuahua of half-baked ideas lifted from Salon.com," says one.
REP. KARIN POWER
This year's top rookie led the unusually large crop of 10 newcomers. Power, 33, is a former Milwaukie City Councilor and currently a lawyer for the Freshwater Trust. She's the first LGBTQ representative of an increasingly blue district. Originally from New Jersey, she's more intense than many of her colleagues. Her service as vice-chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee buoyed the spirits of enviros. One lobbyist called her "a star in the making."
"Smart and pragmatic," says one lobbyist. "Her experience as an elected local government leader gives her a deep understanding of how to get things done," says another. Of course, no lawmaker earns all praise. "Outsized view of her own importance," says a skeptic. "Ambition to burn."
REP. ALISSA KENY-GUYER
In her fourth session, the always sunny Keny-Guyer, 58, who represents the uber liberal and affluent Laurelhurst and Mt. Tabor neighborhoods, chairs the House Committee on Human Services and Housing. She led the charge for Oregon to help abolish the Electoral College. (That effort failed in the Senate, again.) Keny-Guyer, in her fourth term, served as the point person for the Portland delegation's attempts to address Oregon's housing shortage and also worked on elder care reform. Keny-Guyer is one of the building's most progressive members, which often puts her at odds with business lobbyists. "Classic limousine liberal," says one of them. But the consensus is she's upped her game. "Don't let the flower child persona fool you," says a supporter. "She's an incisive and increasingly effective player."
REP. KEN HELM
Overall Rating: 6.94
Helm, 52, is an ascetic land use lawyer. Many observers find him as dry as a law book that hasn't been opened since Al Gore invented the Internet. Few doubt Helm's intellectual horsepower, but the gap between his scores for brains (high) and effectiveness (low) is one of the largest in this survey. A second-termer, Helm chairs the House Committee on Energy and Environment, always a battleground between business and environmental interests and the center of Oregon's enduring land use conflicts. "Super smart, progressive, pragmatic, helpful, friendly," says one left-leaning lobbyist. "Prime example of a short-dick Democrat," says a business lobbyist. "Too smart not to get more done in committee," says another lobbyist. "Needs to learn the politics, not just the policy."
REP. MARGARET DOHERTY
Overall Rating: 6.89
Doherty, 66, is a vinegary former Oregon Education Association staffer now in her fourth term. She rules the House Education Committee with the firm hand she used as a teacher at Milwaukie High. "I really like watching her rip into people she disagrees with," says one admirer. Doherty's a serious Mariners fan, but their season has been as frustrating to her as the anemic $8.2 billion K-12 budget. "A strong and steady progressive voice in the Legislature," writes one respondent. Others would like to see more independence. "Has she legally changed her name to 'OEA' yet?" asks a lobbyist.
REP. CARLA PILUSO
OVERALL RATING: 6.66
The former Gresham police chief, 61, now in her second term, cannot get enough of public service—she also chairs on the Gresham-Barlow School Board. Piluso joined Rep. Susan McLain in passing a foster children's sibling bill of rights. But for all of her experience, she's been slow to make a significant impact. One example: she pushed a bill this session that would crack down on cops involved in domestic violence but couldn't overcome the resistance of her former police peers. "Good at this job," says one fan. "Does her homework and serves with integrity." But many commented on her being just another face in the crowd. "This slow starter may not have any engine," says one critic.
REP. ANN LININGER
OVERALL RATING: 6.65
Lininger, 49, a lawyer who recently switched from corporate practice to the Metropolitan Public Defender's office, serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation (yes, it's really called that). After a rookie session in 2015 when her scores suffered from the un-Oregonian characteristic of being too aggressive, the former Clackamas County Commissioner dialed back her ambitions and saw her ratings rise a bit. Many respondents find her inconsistent, perhaps because she's got the mindset of a Portland liberal but represents a moderate district. "Bright and flexible, very good at reading people and running contentious meetings," an admirer says. "A little too conflict-averse," says another. "More brains than boldness."
REP. BILL KENNEMER
OVERALL RATING: 6.61
Kennemer, 70, a retired psychologist now in his fifth term after a dozen years on the Clackamas County Commission, is a "picker"—a guy who loves garage sales— but he also drives one of the Capitol's spiffiest vehicles, a shiny new BMW X5. Kennemer pushed again this session to expand drug-prescribing privileges for psychologists, a bill still alive. "May be one of the last moderate Rs, if there is such a thing any more," one lobbyist says. "Nice man, can't wrap his head around complicated health care policy. Resorts to personal (and often moving) anecdotes," says a critic. "Why he stays passeth understanding," adds an observer. "Go and enjoy retirement."
REP. MARK JOHNSON
OVERALL RATING: 6.53
A residential contractor and Hood River School Board member, Johnson, 60, co-chairs the Craft Brewers Caucus with Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene). He also works across the aisle on less frothy issues, often teaming up with Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) on education policies, including passing and expanding a program that gives students free community college, and teaming with Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley) to pass a bill strengthening the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. As a Republican in an increasingly blue district, he will be a top target for Democrats seeking to win a super majority.
"Always respectful, moderate and studies the issues," says one supporter. But others think Johnson's concerns about holding onto his seat in a swing district have blunted his effectiveness. "A deadly combo of fear and ego is driving this legislator into the ditch," says a business lobbyist. "Expectations have become unrealized potential."
REP. SUSAN MCLAIN
OVERALL RATING: 6.31
McClain, 68, a former teacher and four-term Metro councilor, is serving her second term in the House. She co-chairs the Joint Committee on Legislative Audits, which is a little bit like being the mayor of a small town in Siberia. Bills she worked on relating to greater regulation of Uber and Lyft stalled, but she did pass a bill allowing the sale of ungraded eggs at farmers' markets. "Started speaking up and showing some pluck and pragmatism," says one advocate. "Why couldn't she have run for Metro chair? They deserve her," said another.
REP. TAWNA SANCHEZ
OVERALL RATING: 6.22
Sanchez, 55, narrowly won the race to succeed now-Sen. Lew Frederick. The director of family services at the Native American Youth and Family Center, and a longtime foster parent, she brings a unique perspective to the House—she's the first Native American to represent Portland in the Legislature, and only the second to serve in the building. Many people would like her to express that perspective more often. Sanchez passed a bill ensuring state contractors have sexual harassment policies and worked on a family-friendly sentencing reform bill still alive at press time. "She needs to let go of being too nice and trying to please everyone," a lobbyist writes. "Has a lot to learn to be an effective legislator," says another.
REP. RICH VIAL
OVERALL RATING: 6.2
Vial, 62, an expert on the law governing condos and homeowners' associations, replaced former Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville) in one of the metro area's few GOP strongholds. A rarity—a trial lawyer who's not a Democrat—Vial carved out a position as a moderate in his caucus. He worked with Rep. Janelle Bynum to pass a bill making it easier for homeless and foster children to get a diploma.
Opinions on Vial diverged considerably. "Really sharp," says one lobbyist. "Republican freshman of the year." Others wanted to see more self-awareness. "No freshman should talk this much," says a veteran lobbyist. "At least pretend there's something you don't know."
REP. CHRIS GORSEK
OVERALL RATING: 6.18
Gorsek, 59, a third termer, is a stocky former Portland cop turned geography instructor at Mt. Hood Community College. His committee assignments are a reflection of his lack of status in his caucus: He serves on just two, Human Services and Judiciary, and doesn't hold a leadership position on either. He worked on juvenile justice reform, passing a bill requiring the taping of interviews with felony suspects. A couple of lobbyists named him as the lawmaker who asked the fewest questions. But Gorsek's scores have risen gradually in his three terms and jumped .71 this year. "Solid legislator, smart, works hard," says one lobbyist. But many expect more. "Nice enough guy but as irrelevant as the day he walked into the building," says a typical respondent.
REP. JULIE PARRISH
OVERALL RATING: 6
Parrish, who spews legislation and opinions with the force and frequency of Old Faithful, is a rare Republican who can win in the metro area. Democratic dominance in Salem cows some Republicans, but Parrish, 43, attacks every day as if she were the gold pioneer atop the Capitol, rather than a minority party back bencher. Now in her fourth term, she spent 2016 advising Republican Dennis Richardson on how to beat Democrat Brad Avakian in the secretary of state's race. Parrish generates strong feelings. "Both parties hate her, so I guess she's effective at something," says one lobbyist. She joined six Democratic colleagues to sponsor still pending legislation that would require employers to schedule workers fairly. Many of her other ideas went nowhere. "A random bill generator," sniffs one skeptic." Will come up with good ideas by virtue of the number of attempts." "She may have the best political instincts in the building and her voters love her," says one lobbyist. "If only her colleagues felt the same way."
REP. JANELLE BYNUM
OVERALL RATING: 5.98
Bynum, 42, a former General Motors engineer who now owns a couple of McDonald's franchises in East Portland, brought some real-world experience to a caucus light on business savvy. She replaced Rep. Shemia Fagan and was the chief sponsor of a new law that makes it easier for homeless and foster children to get a high school diploma, and another that streamlines construction of tiny houses. "Potential to be a very good, moderate legislator," says one lobbyist. "She's really smart, she just doesn't know how to use it yet," an observer says. "Lobbyists don't need a recap of the campaign speech; it's time to legislate now."
REP. SHERI MALSTROM
OVERALL RATING: 5.9
Malstrom, 63, a public health nurse, replaced now-State Treasurer Tobias Read this year. She sponsored a bill that would have elevated the marionberry pie to the official pie of Oregon. The bill passed the House, but proved unappetizing to the Senate. She was more successful on health issues, passing bills on rear-facing car seats for babies and health measures for newborns. "A huge step down from Tobias Read, who was no great shakes," says a lobbyist. A couple of people caught her napping. "Makes effective use of committee time to catch up on sleep," says one observer.
REP. DIEGO HERNANDEZ
OVERALL RATING: 5.72
The youngest lawmaker in Salem, Hernandez, 29, is also among those most eager to move up the ladder. "If ambition was an Olympic sport," one lobbyist said, "he'd win gold." Hernandez serves on the Reynolds School District Board, Planned Parenthood Advocates Board and the state commission for Hispanic Affairs. He helped pass a bill that will create an ethnic studies curriculum and worked on another that clarified what immigration information state and local officials can share with the feds.
"His deep connections with advocacy groups make him a perfect fit for this job," says one progressive. "He doesn't know what he doesn't know," says a veteran lobbyist. "And he doesn't seem to know much."
REP. JEFF REARDON
OVERALL RATING: 5.7
Reardon, 70, now in his third term, has found a spot in the moderate wing of his caucus. Kotek rewarded him with a gavel this session—the former Tektronix employee and high school shop teacher now chairs the House Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. He passed a bill that beefs up workforce training, and another that reduces fees on commercial bee colonies. However, there's a general feeling that after three sessions, he's hit his ceiling, and it's not high. "Really good guy but not a lot of octane there," says one advocate. "Oh Reardon," says one observer. "Holier than thou, unpredictable, never findable."
REP. JANEEN SOLLMAN
OVERALL RATING: 5.49
Sollman, 47, works for an educational software company and serves on the Hillsboro School Board. She replaced Rep. Joe Gallegos this session and, like Gallegos, struggled to make an impact. One of the few bills of which she was chief sponsor would have banned drinking on Oregon beaches. By the end of session, some lobbyists were cracking wise about starting a GoFundMe campaign to put Sollman's pictures on milk cartons. "Sollman is viewed at this point as simply a reliable vote for the Ds. She's done nothing to stand out—good or bad," says one lobbyist. "Lots to learn," says a typical response. "Below average," says another. Somebody has to be.
REP. MARK MEEK
OVERALL RATING: 5.38
A onetime Southeast Portland bar-owner—he owned the Mt. Tabor Pub in the 90s—turned suburban realtor, Meek, 53, is an everyman. He's also staggeringly ambitious, however: He replaced former Rep. Brent Barton last fall and some say he's already whispering about running for governor. Early in the session, Meek nearly got torn in half as real estate interests and his caucus battled for his vote on a contentious bill limiting no-cause evictions. His caucus won and Meek voted against the realtors who'd been his biggest source of support. They are now threatening to finance an opponent for him in 2018. "Stood up to the real estate lobby—impressive for a freshman" says one admiring lobbyist. "Burned those who supported him, will pay a price," counters a business advocate. "Who's ready for the Meek vs. [Rep. Diego] Hernandez gubernatorial primary in 2022?" asks one wag.
Elise Herron and Tom Berridge contributed reporting and research for this story.
Corrections: This story originally said Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) is the only black man in the Legislature. In fact, Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene), who is black, was appointed to the Senate in December. It also misidentified a co-sponsor of a bill creating a foster children's bill of rights. The co-sponsor was Rep. Susan McClain (D-Hillsboro), not Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte). WW regrets the errors.