Senate rankings EXCELLENT
Third House session
Let's see if we've got this right: Oregon's governor, a Democrat from Portland, has spent the year telling voters that it's too soon for any major revenue changes. Meanwhile, District 35's representative, a Republican from Tigard, has led the charge for a sales tax.
No wonder some of Max Williams' biggest fans belong to his rival party. "We may not end up with a sales tax, but at least people are finally talking about serious tax reform," says one Democratic staffer. "And Max is right in the middle of it all."
Which is where Williams loves to be.
The 39-year-old Miller Nash lawyer made a big splash in 1999 when, as a savvy, moderate Republican, he became an influential swing vote in a chamber where his party held a narrow advantage. Democrats worked to get his vote while Republicans tried to keep it.
He finessed that role in the '01 session, only to watch the dynamics change in November when Republicans racked up a 10-vote majority in the House.
"He's probably the smartest member of the Oregon Legislature, but he's having a hard time functioning in a House that's dominated by his own party," says one observer. That's partly Williams' own fault, say some critics, who argue he's done little to develop good relationships with conservative members of his own caucus. "He needs to remember that this is a consensus-building process," writes one respondent. "You have to work with ideological members, not rely on others to bring them along."
Still, his numbers were high enough to put him at the top of the rankings for metro-area House members for the second year in a row.
The Brigham Young grad, who likes to drape his sizable frame in seersucker suits, eventually made enough noise about tax reform that Speaker Karen Minnis belatedly granted Williams and his allies (dubbed "The Usual Suspects") hearings. In addition, Williams took the lead on a proposal to put public-school teachers on a unified (and cheaper) state health insurance plan, as well as another to provide financial incentives for rural neonatal docs. Both are still pending.
As usual, Williams showed his independence on environmental votes, siding with Democrats to oppose efforts to expand urban growth boundaries in Woodburn and Bend. Skeptics say Williams is building a voting record that would play well in a statewide race for--hmm, let's say attorney general. Fans say he's being true to his conscience and is smart enough to recognize when good policy and smart politics overlap.GOOD
First House session
A 53-year-old former youth soccer coach for Rookie of the Year? Why not.
"He's got the pedigree. He's got the diplomas. He's got the smarts," says one legislative staffer. "And he's sooooo nice."
You can find a few people who say Greg Macpherson is overrated, but they're in the minority. Here's why: Macpherson, whose father, state Sen. Hector Macpherson, helped craft Oregon's legendary land-use laws, is credited with reforming the state public-pension program. "This was an incredibly tough assignment for any Democrat," says one lobbyist. "And they gave it to a freshman!"
Not that he didn't have help. Those involved in the discussions say that while House Majority Leader Tim Knopp did a good job keeping the proposal moving and state Sen. Tony Corcoran, a Eugene Democrat, took the political heat from the unions, Macpherson, a buttoned-down Stoel Rives lawyer who specializes in pension plans, worked tirelessly on the details. "You could say he was lucky to end up here with his expertise at a time it was needed," says one observer, "but genius is making the most of your luck."
"He had an incredible burden of legacy," says one staffer, "and he seems to have lived up to it."
Third House session
If you compare the scores of the 36 other lawmakers graded on these pages, you'll find only one legislator (Rep. Mitch Greenlick) who shows as much of a gap between his ratings for intelligence and influence as does Jeff Merkley. "He's very smart," says one staffer. "But that doesn't get him very far."
While Greenlick's lack of clout is common among freshmen, many feel Merkley, after three sessions, should have moved into a leadership position. "He proves you can overthink anything because he does overthink everything," says one lobbyist.
Other observers, however, say Merkley, the 46-year-old former president of the World Affairs Council of Oregon, has finally found his rhythm. "He's matured this session into a more comfortable-in-his-own-skin legislator," says one respondent.
He continues to use his Stanford/Princeton study skills to pursue elaborate and quixotic solutions to huge problems. (He's plugging away on a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a funding floor for K-12 education, based on 2001 levels and pegged to an inflation index.) But he has also focused on smaller battles where there's a chance of victory. This session he pushed a bill that would protect home buyers from construction liens filed after the sale and an anti-spam measure that would require e-marketers to flag their advertisements' subject lines with "ADV" to make filtering easier. Both measures passed the House and are still alive in the Senate.
Merkley got one of the top scores for integrity, which may be traced to his methodical and cerebral approach, attacking bad bills through calm and reasoned questioning rather than finger-pointing diatribes. "He never surprises you with a vote," says one lobbyist.
Second House session
Mary Nolan's move from an "average" freshman year to a "good" sophomore season was fueled by brainpower and diligence. "She's probably one of the most thoughtful and dedicated lawmakers in Salem," says a veteran lobbyist. "But alas, she's not cute, funny or Republican."
Indeed, "abrasive" is one of the most common adjectives used to describe this former City of Portland bureau chief. "Like nails on a chalkboard," says one legislative aide. "Her mouth seems set in a permanent frown."
The other rap against the 48-year-old small-business owner is that she's overly partisan and predictably liberal. "With her background in small business, I thought she might be less knee-jerk," says one staffer, who noted that Nolan was the only lawmaker on the eight-member House committee on the Public Employees Retirement System to vote against House Bills 2003 and 2004, the centerpieces of the proposed pension reforms. "She just sat there voting no without offering any alternatives." Nolan, who was given a 100 percent score on her 2001 voting record by the AFL-CIO, said it was unfair, and legally unwise, to cut back benefits promised in the past.
Nolan deserves credit for helping keep Oregon's decade-old education reforms on life support. As a member of the House Education Committee, she stepped up and got heavily involved with HB 2744, a rewrite of the laws governing the state's Certificate of Initial Mastery, which some Republicans had hoped to kill.
Nolan's biggest challenge will start after the session ends. She's expected to be the point person for recruiting Democratic candidates who have a chance of trimming the GOP advantage in the House. Says one lobbyist: "If the Democrats want to have a chance, she's going to have to work with people who aren't as ideologically pure as she is."
Third House session
It has not been a great session for Karen Minnis. In fact, the only thing that kept her out of the basement of this year's rankings is her clout.
Her power points come from her job as Speaker of the House, which gives her the ability to appoint people to committees, kill bills and set a date to close the whole shebang down.
Many of our survey respondents noted that Minnis isn't Mark Simmons--and all, save one, expressed gratitude for that fact. But once comparisons with her predecessor are over, her reviews get decidedly more mixed.
A lot of folks blame the 48-year-old former legislative aide for the long, drawn-out session. While the proposed budget was hammered out three months ago, there's been little progress in figuring out how to pay for programs that lawmakers, including members of Minnis' own caucus, are insisting upon. And since all revenue measures start in the House, the bucks stop with her.
There's no denying Minnis is in a tight spot. Several House Republicans took "no new tax" pledges. Taking their cues from GOP chairman Kevin Mannix and talk-czar Lars Larson, they're dead set on balancing the budget through cuts and one-time sources of money.
At the same time, most Democrats and a handful of her own caucus members, led by Rep. Williams, wouldn't let the revenue discussion die. According to those who monitored legislative leaders' budget negotiations, Minnis had trouble figuring out what to do. "She was in a dark closet without a flashlight," says one staffer.
"I think she sincerely believes that there's a solution without new revenue," says a lobbyist, "but no one is sure."
Two weeks ago, when Minnis finally allowed Williams to hold hearings on a sales tax, Larson called for her resignation, and there were rumblings of an internal coup to oust her as Speaker, if not this session then next. Rather than stand up to the hard-liners, Minnis retreated, threatening to pull out of talks with Senate President Courtney and Gov. Kulongoski.
In addition to lacking a clear game plan, Minnis ticked off legislators and lobbyists alike by restricting the number of bills that could get a hearing and shutting down committees weeks before there was any realistic chance to adjourn.
Capitol watchers who in the past found her warm and personable now complain that she's vindictive.
Case in point: On Feb. 10, Gov. Kulongoski sent a letter to legislative leaders complaining about Minnis' proposal to restore $15 million in health benefits to seniors and the disabled, calling it "simplistic and superficial." Just hours later, Sen. John Minnis, the Speaker's husband, contacted the legislative counsel's office, requesting that it draft a bill to sell surplus government property, including Mahonia Hall, where the governor lives.
"This woman is a smiling barracuda," says one observer. "If she pats you on the back, find a mirror and check for a knife."
Second House session
Burl Ives! It wasn't until some lobbyists with too much time on their hands made a "Separated at Birth" poster comparing Steve March to Sam the Snowman (of animated Rudolph fame) that the likeness became so apparent.
And, like the dearly departed balladeer, March always seems to have a smile on his face, despite the fact that his left-of-center politics are not in tune with the Republican leaders who are directing the House choir this session. "So liberal and idealistic," says one staffer, "yet he's a realist."
March's broad interests are reflected in the bills he's pushed this session. He knows some won't pass, such as a measure to slash bars' cut of video-poker receipts from 32 percent to 15 percent and a proposal to require cigarette packages to include a no-littering label. But he has others that have picked up GOP support, such as his plan to give farmers more time to reinvest cash earned from the sale of water rights.
The 56-year-old former Multnomah County policy analyst has made his mark largely behind the scenes. His ability to navigate a spreadsheet is in such short supply that he was given an unofficial seat on the Ways and Means education subcommittee. "He can't vote," notes one respondent who's monitored almost all the meetings, "but he has a better attendance record than most of the official members, and he's the only one who asks relevant questions."
March was also recently named to a legislative budget negotiating team, a signal to some that he's being groomed for greater responsibilities. "He'd be a great minority leader," says one staffer.
Second House session
Carolyn Tomei avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, despite the lack of influence that came with being an urban Democrat this session. The former mental-health counselor used her professional experience on the House Human Services Committee, where the only other Democrats were rookie Jeff Barker and struggling sophomore Laurie Monnes Anderson.
A lobbyist who regularly monitored the panel says although Tomei couldn't stop bad bills from being voted out, she asked good questions that laid the foundation for future arguments. For example, she is credited with slowing down a bill that would have cut off state health benefits to anyone who couldn't prove their residency, by noting its potential impact on the homeless.
The 67-going-on-47-year-old former mayor of Milwaukie was also one of the co-sponsors of HB 2747, which would close the tax break given to owners of SUVs (because they're treated as commercial vehicles).
"This is a diligent, capable and well-intentioned representative who one could easily imagine chairing the Human Services Committee one day if the other guys weren't in charge," says one lobbyist.
Third House session
As usual, some of the surveys came back dismissing "Red Diane" as a "union mouthpiece." But several longtime observers think this may be the session in which Diane Rosenbaum turned the corner from mediocrity and headed toward the top. The 53-year-old Qwest telecom technician and former lobbyist for the Communications Workers of America rarely surprises anyone with her votes (she opposed all the state pension reforms), but she still commands attention when she rises to speak. "She delivers some of the most cogent, clear and well-delivered floor speeches you'll hear," says one lobbyist. Another survey respondent characterized her arguments as "factual syllogisms" (which we think is a compliment).
Rosenbaum also does well in the diligence department, perhaps for her unrelenting crusade to get insurance companies to cover contraceptive prescriptions as they do other prescriptions (the bill got hung up in the House in late May). She also led the unsuccessful effort to keep House Republicans from messing with last year's voter-approved minimum-wage hike, which she had championed. HB 2624, which strips the increase of its peg to inflation, passed the House on a largely party-line vote.
Rosenbaum may have better luck with her effort to force corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Her bill to raise the minimum corporate income tax (stuck at $10 since 1931) hasn't yet moved, but it's likely to pop up in some form as lawmakers look for new revenue in the final weeks of the session.
"She's tight with the liberal/labor wing of her caucus, yet she's on good terms with the Speaker," notes one staffer. "She must be doing something right."
Second House session
Although technically not a freshman, Jackie Dingfelder might as well be one. The 42-year-old salmon activist was appointed to the Legislature more than halfway into the 2001 session, when JoAnn Bowman bolted to make an unsuccessful bid for Multnomah County chair.
In her first full term, she's impressed observers as a quick study. One of several lawmakers pushing an increased beer tax to fund social services, she gave up on her bill to work with a Republican, Sen. Steve Harper, on his. Her left-of-left-of-center politics are a good match for her district but limit her influence in the GOP-controlled House. "She's one of the most liberal members of her caucus," notes a Republican staffer, "but she's so fun and friendly that our members generally like her."
With Charlie Ringo's move to the Senate, Dingfelder is the undisputed environmental expert in the House (they were the chief co-sponsors of the SUV tax measure), though one fellow Democrat says the eager greenie would do well to "talk less and listen more." And while some colleagues were glad to see her branch out and get involved in revenue issues, a staffer says she showed some naïveté by arguing that the budget gap could be solved simply by closing tax loopholes. One lobbyist gives Dingfelder good marks, in general, but says to raise anemic scores in the clout department she must focus: "Jackie's always got 50 balls in the air." AVERAGE
First House session
Though some survey respondents were surprised to meet a Portland-area Democrat who didn't always toe the labor/enviro line, others say Hunt largely made good on his campaign promise to be a pro-business Democrat.
Hunt sided with Republicans on several environmental bills. He was one of three Democrats to vote for HB 2468, a relaxation of the Oregon Endangered Species Act, and supported HB 2436, a repeal of the ban on using dogs to hunt cougars. He also co-sponsored HB 2689, the session's first high-profile land-use bill, which would ease restrictions on developing rural properties.
"My nominee for freshman of the session," says one lobbyist. "He's an affable, articulate quick study who picks his battles carefully."
For his biggest battle, the 35-year-old former aide to U.S. Rep. Darlene Hooley took on the most powerful woman in the Legislature: Karen Minnis. Hunt and Eugene Republican Rep. Pat Farr wanted to ask voters to rescind the state's law requiring at least a 50 percent turnout at the polls to pass a tax hike. Minnis, however, kept the resolution bottled up, so Hunt and Farr held unofficial hearings on their measure anyway.
"He's aggressive and innovative," says another lobbyist. "He's willing to try all sorts of things. He kind of reminds me of a young Kevin Mannix, who started out as a pro-business Democrat."
And, like Mannix, Hunt has drawn complaints that he's a bit full of himself. "He thinks because he was a congressional staffer he understands Salem," writes one respondent. "He doesn't." A legislative aide adds: "He's awfully preachy for a freshman."
First House session
If we added the category of "likable," Jeff Barker would run away with Rookie of the Year honors. The 60-year-old retired Portland police lieutenant seems at ease with just about everyone he meets.
"A very solid, nice guy," says a lobbyist. "He's not flashy, he doesn't hold press conferences, and he only speaks out on issues where he really has some level of expertise, such as public safety."
The lanky, low-key ex-Marine squeaked into office by just 40 votes, and observers say he seems a good fit for his evenly split district. Despite once serving as head of the Portland police union, which has its own controversial retirement fund, he supported the state-pension reforms. And he joined with five other metro-area Democrats to vote for HB 3632, which would allow more logging in the Tillamook Forest. He's tough on crime yet hasn't alienated the bleeding-heart brigade in his caucus.
"Here's a pro-choice police officer, a non-discrimination advocate from the military, white guy from the suburbs," notes one respondent. "What a package!"Deborah Kafoury
D-North and Northeast Portland
Third House session
Any lobbyist worth his Blazer tickets could have told you eight months ago that Deborah Kafoury's ratings would tumble this session. As the Democrat in charge of House candidates during the 2002 election, Kafoury took the blame for the dismal showing in November, when her party's gap in the lower chamber grew from six (a 27-33 split) to 10 (a 25-35 division).
"She never recovered from the election," says one Democrat. Unlike in past sessions, the minority leader doesn't have enough moderate Republicans to win any close floor votes. And, with the GOP in charge of all House committees, Kafoury couldn't even guarantee hearings for many of her members' bills. Some insiders say she made a bad situation worse by telegraphing her plans to step out of leadership (and, perhaps, the Legislature) after this session. The resulting jockeying for power (which includes leadership bids by Mark Hass, Mary Nolan, Floyd Prozanski and Alan Bates) has been a huge distraction. "From what I hear, the caucus is in disarray," says one lobbyist. "No one trusts each other. There's no direction."
Still, some give Kafoury, 36, credit for avoiding an all-out civil war in a caucus with deep philosophical differences and not a whole lot to do. And, as part of an Oregon Democratic dynasty (her mom is former City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury; her dad, Stephen, is a former state senator), she also earns points for stepping up to support state pension reform, despite tremendous pressure from union leaders who helped put her caucus members in office.
But the conventional view is summed up by one lobbyist who quips, "Her leadership style is much like her hairstyle--flat and ineffective." Ouch.
First House session
Brad Avakian, a 42-year-old disability and discrimination lawyer, ran on a vague "protect schools, no new taxes" platform in his evenly divided suburban district and has stuck to the script--at least technically. "He's against raising taxes," notes one staffer, "but he's OK with ending tax credits. Sometimes he doesn't seem to connect all the dots."
Others say he connects the dots just fine; he just takes a different route than most of his caucus members. "Here's a trial lawyer who doesn't vote like one," notes one respondent. "He's business-friendly and a breath of fresh air in Salem."
Avakian teamed up with right-wing Rep. Betsy Close to sponsor a bill to lure new businesses to Oregon (it didn't go anywhere) and was the only metro-area Democrat in the House to vote for SB 761, which would have ended testing requirements for home-schoolers had the governor not vetoed it.
"Brad plays a bipartisan game whenever he finds the opportunity," says one lobbyist.
Second House session
Meet Oregon's version of Rep. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. No other metro-area House member polarized survey participants as did former KATU news broadcaster Mark Hass.
"One of the stars," gushes a legislative aide.
"The most arrogant, self-impressed guy here," counters a lobbyist.
"A House Democrat with brains and balls!" exclaims a respondent who suggests Hass run for governor in '06.
But another respondent has this advice for the many people who continue to mispronounce the lawmaker's surname: "Just take away the 'H' and it explains everything.
What's going on here? The numbers provide some clues: The 46-year-old media consultant's score for "clout" rose almost a full point in his second session, yet his overall rating dropped because he lost almost two full points in the "integrity" department.
The fluctuating scores and the diverging opinions are certainly related to Hass' selection as minority whip. It's his job to embarrass the Republicans, letting Kafoury, the minority leader, take the high road. It's a task he seems to relish. "He's Deb's little partisan pit bull," says one Republican. "He needs to remember he's in a GOP district."
Ah, but here's the rub. Hass also draws flak because he occasionally splits with his more liberal colleagues. He backed the bill to increase logging in the Tillamook Forest, for example, and joined Kafoury, Macpherson and Barker in supporting state-pension reform.
With deep-set eyes and tussled hair, Hass has drawn comparison to Willem Dafoe and Kevin Bacon. In any event, after more than a decade of covering state politics, he's not camera-shy and knows how to get ink. That may help his influence but doesn't necessarily win him friends. "His op-eds and press conferences (of which his colleagues are unaware and uninvited) are stunts that do little to advance his cause," writes one critic.
First House session
In a deliberative body where real-world business experience is rare, expectations were high for freshman Rep. Wayne Scott, a successful Canby developer. Whether he met them depends on whom you talk to and, often, on which side of the aisle they're sitting. A fellow Republican calls him "leader of the freshman class," while a left-leaning lobbyist calls him a "huge disappointment."
As vice-chairman of the House Revenue Committee (a plum assignment for a first-term lawmaker), Scott, a bear of a man who's been likened to Norman Schwarzkopf, was firmly in the no-taxes camp and pushed through the House a bill to develop a new state loan fund for small-business development.
His big initiative was his project examining the so-called "other funds" in agencies' budgets, such as reserve funds. For a while, Republicans were quite excited about this, suggesting that bureaucrats had squirreled away billions of dollars that could be used to balance the budget. Although the figure is now thought to be closer to the $50 million range, Scott still gets credit for quietly plugging away at the issue without taking cheap shots at state government. "For a while, this thing had 'press conference' written all over it," says one staffer. "Think of the headlines: 'Republicans uncover state slush funds!' Wayne could have showboated it, but he didn't do any of that."
Sixth House session
(Four Senate sessions)
Randy Miller took a voluntary demotion this session and was rewarded with a jump in the standings. Last session, the 56-year-old lumber-company manager struggled in the Senate, clashing with former Senate President Gene Derfler, who, in Miller's mind, had caved to the Democratic minority. He decided to return to the House (prompted, in part, by Oregon's term-limits law, which was later tossed out by the courts), where his experience was rewarded with the chance to co-chair the Joint Ways and Means Committee with Democratic Sen. Kurt Schrader.
That appointment resulted in a 2.5-point jump in his "clout" score and moved him from the "awful" category to the bottom of the "average" class. "The job has elevated his game," says one staffer.
Not everyone agrees.
Miller's integrity scores are still awful, which may stem from his extreme partisanship (he's the former head of the Oregon GOP). Miller is still viewed as too eager to play political games, but one Democratic aide says, "He's not as mean as in the past. But he's just as lazy."
Ah, yes...let the one-liners begin:
"Kurt does the math while Randy plays golf."
"Randy's always ready--for a foursome."
"Best tan in the building."
"His idea of crunching numbers is calculating his handicap."
Miller is viewed as the quintessential bright guy who doesn't break a sweat--a trait he brought to the budget talks. "He sits there day after day and says the state spends too much money," says one staffer, "but he won't identify significant cuts."
But he's consistent. Miller again pushed his two pet issues: raising the speed limit and repealing the ban on self-serve gas, prompting one respondent to wonder: "Driving 80 and pumping your own gas. That's an agenda?"
First House session
No other Salem newcomer arrived with so many eyes upon him. Mitch Greenlick nearly picked off incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Witt in 2000. Last year he had to get through a tough primary battle with superstar schools advocate Carol Robinson and fend off a spirited fall challenge from GOP up-and-comer Erik Hartung. Along the way, Greenlick, a 68-year-old health-care policy analyst, proved to be one of the brainiest candidates to hit the trail in years--and one of the most caustic. As WW put it in its May endorsement, the key question was, "Is Mitch Greenlick such an arrogant jerk that he can't be effective in Salem?"
Our guess was no, and after six months, most observers would say we bet right.
"Mitch was helped by low expectations," notes one staffer. "He's not as arrogant as people feared."
That's not to say he hasn't struggled. "The mean streak is there," says one staffer, but he's kept it largely confined to closed-door caucus meetings (he and Rep. Mike Schaufler reportedly nearly mixed it up early in the session). "He knows it all, and if he doesn't, it's someone else's fault for not telling him," the staffer says. Even outside the caucus, some have picked up on Greenlick's tenor. "Thinks he's the brightest bulb in the chandelier," says one critic.
When you're viewed as the third-most astute yet least influential member of the metro-area House contingent, something isn't working.
Defenders say Greenlick, who spent 30 years as a health-policy researcher and served on the panel that crafted the Oregon Health Plan, has reason to be testy. "Mitch knows the issues, the process and the intricacies as well as a 20-year veteran," says one lobbyist. "He's probably galled that more mediocre minds have the gavel."
Although an undisputed health-care expert, Greenlick showed a wide range of interests in his first year. He carried a bill for the state cops to boost penalties for getting too close to emergency vehicles and introduced HB 2628, which would merge OHSU and PSU. At times, Greenlick showed independence from his caucus, such as when he joined Republicans in voting for a bill to relax Bend's urban growth boundary. "For a self-proclaimed environmentalist, he's voted for some really bad bills," says one observer, "and taken selective hearing to a high art form."BAD
First House session
Let's start at the top:
"The higher the hair, the closer to God."
"Best 'do in the House."
It seems that every session, some female lawmaker's coiffeur comes under criticism. And with former Sen. Eileen "Barbie" Qutub out of the picture, the fashion vultures have dug their verbal talons into freshman Linda Flores, a well-dressed legal assistant who's been compared to Martha Stewart with big hair.
But it's what's under the scalp that matters, and most observers have their doubts about the 56-year-old Clackamas County GOP activist; her "brains" score is second-lowest among metro-area House members (ahead of only fellow Republican Jerry Krummel).
One lobbyist who monitored the House Rules Committee reports that "you could see her being directed by Committee Chair Dan Doyle (R-Salem), being told what motions to mouth and what votes to take."
For a lot of Republicans, Flores passed the only test that mattered: On election day, she trounced state Rep. Jan Lee, a Republican who enraged party leaders by becoming an independent and, later, a Democrat after chafing under their conservative agenda. Teaching Lee a lesson was Speaker Karen Minnis' No. 1 priority last fall, and Flores was up to the task.
Flores' fans (and there are some) say she did a good job picking a couple of causes and focusing on them. She crafted a plan to revamp the state kicker law to save some of the unexpected revenue that now gets automatically returned to taxpayers. Her proposal got a hearing in May and may be incorporated into a Senate plan.
While some observers bristle at her right-wing politics (she backed the House bill that would require a 24-hour wait before getting an abortion), others say Flores will listen to opposing views. "She's not the ideological whack-job a lot of us expected," says one lobbyist. "She's open and very accessible, but you still have to talk through the filter of a hard-right conservative."
Third House session
Gary Hansen is the Ford Taurus wagon of the House. Not a whole lot of pep under the hood, but a dependable, useful vehicle for getting from point A to point B.
It's telling that of the many respondents who sent in detailed notes with their scorecards, only one wrote anything about Hansen: "Nice guy, does the job well enough. Not a lot to say."
Even in our interviews with a dozen Salem watchers, the 59-year-old ex-plumber did not generate a lot of specific praise or criticism. "The Republicans seem to trust him. The Democrats seem to trust him," says one lobbyist. "But he's not setting the world on fire."
The former Multnomah County commissioner, who's developed a taste for Hawaiian shirts, is a solid Democratic vote. He's always had a soft spot for underdogs, and this year, from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee, he was a constant advocate for retaining adult dental coverage under the Oregon Health Plan. In fact, those who monitored the committee say he was sometimes the only House member who seemed willing to challenge Democratic Sen. Kurt Schrader, who's always tight with a buck, when it came to social-service budgets. "He rode Kurt's ass constantly," says one observer. "A lot people on Ways and Means wished Gary Hansen would go away."
First House session
For a woman who scratched her way to Salem, Mary Gallegos proved to be an amiable, if not terribly effective, addition to the Legislature. The 41-year-old former aide to Intel boss Jim Johnson put her name forward when her brother, Jim Hill, quit his legislative seat after the 2001 session to take a job with the state promoting e-commerce. She was furious when Washington County commissioners instead chose former Cornelius Mayor Ralph Brown to serve out the remainder of Hill's term. In last spring's Republican primary she went after Brown with a vengeance, portraying him as a tax-and-spend social liberal.
As a lawmaker, however, Gallegos is viewed more favorably. "She's not nearly as abrasive as she seemed while campaigning," notes one legislative aide, though a couple of observers noted her "perpetual glower."
Most Salem watchers say Gallegos failed to emerge as the high-tech expert she said she was. She's pushed a bill to consolidate the state's information-storage facilities, but, as one staffer says, "other than that, I haven't seen anything."
She's viewed as more conservative than her brother (who would often swing to the D side on social and environmental issues) but not quite as quirky. Still, one observer noted, "She's got some of her brother's DNA. That's not necessarily a good thing."
Where Gallegos does benefit from comparisons to her sibling is in constituent work. While Hill was often knocked for having little presence in his western Washington County district, Gallegos has spent a lot of time meeting with constituents and responding personally to almost every email she gets.
First House session
When Randy Leonard joined the Oregon Legislature, a lot of folks wondered how a blue-collar Democrat would do in a caucus dominated by cerebral lefties. He proved he could play a key role. Now people are asking the same question of Mike Schaufler--and hoping for the same results.
Schaufler stepped up to the plate when Leonard announced he'd end his legislative career to run for the City Council.
The 43-year-old self-employed contractor got off to a rocky start with, as one observer put it, "a know-it-all attitude" that irked some of his colleagues (particularly fellow know-it-all freshman Mitch Greenlick).
But, as the session wore on, Schaufler, who lobbyists noted looks a bit like a slimmed-down John Goodman, was viewed as an affable Democrat with real-world experience. "He may not know a lot about this or that," writes one respondent, "but he knows a lot about cement."
Schaufler also was praised and blasted for his willingness to depart from the party line. Although he campaigned on a pro-labor platform, the tradesman voted for state pension reform. And he voted with the Republican majority on several environmental/land-use bills, including measures to weaken the Oregon Endangered Species Act, allow more cutting in the Tillamook Forest and expand Bend's urban growth boundary.
He didn't introduce many bills (wise for a freshman Democrat) and seems to be taking a long-term outlook. "I like his candor and 'just regular guy' style," says one lobbyist. "If he can become an expert in a couple of areas, Randy Leonard's successor can truly be called 'Randy Leonard's successor.'"
Laurie Monnes Anderson
Second House session
Laurie Monnes Anderson's slide to the bottom of the "bad" bin can be traced to a couple of votes in which she violated one of the unwritten rules of Salem: Don't surprise your friends.
The first instance came with HB 2537. Under current law, employers who offer health insurance must cover a list of state-mandated benefits, including drug and alcohol treatment, mental-health counseling, mammography screening and pap-smear exams. The bill, still pending in the Senate, would allow small businesses to offer plans without all the state-mandated benefits. While HB 2537 had support from business groups, many health advocates--particularly advocates of women's health coverage--strongly opposed it. That's why they were shocked when Anderson, a nurse and ardent feminist, signed on as a co-sponsor. One lobbyist suspects that Monnes Anderson backed the bill as a favor to its chief sponsor, Rep. Joanne Verger, a Coos Bay small-business owner and the only other Democrat to vote for it in the House.
Monnes Anderson also went south on her caucus and union allies on HB 2624, the proposal to amend the voter-passed minimum-wage hike so that it doesn't rise with inflation. This time, she was the only Democrat to vote for the bill. "She forgot the first rule of politics," says one staffer, "you dance with the ones that brung ya."
On the plus side, legislative staffers note that Monnes Anderson has a good relationship with Speaker Minnis (they both represent Gresham) and has been so unrelenting in her crusade to restore funds for school-based health clinics that it's now at the top of Democrats' list of programs to add back if the Legislature boosts revenue.AWFUL
Third House session
Some legislators start out at the bottom of the biennial ratings pile and work their way up with experience. Jerry Krummel continues to sink lower.
The chief complaint remains the same as in the past two sessions. He's taken an attribute, open-mindedness, and turned it into a liability. "Sometimes he gives his vote to whoever gets to him first," says one observer. "Other times, it's whoever he talks to last. You never know." And, in Salem, uncertainty drives people crazy.
Critics say Krummel took his first committee chairmanship seriously but struggled to keep things on track. They also note that, with the exception of HB 3101, a bill to pressure Oregon libraries to filter porn sites from computers, the General Government Committee panel wasn't assigned any priority legislation. "He was the chair of the committee where all unimportant bills go," notes one observer.
Krummel, the former mayor of Wilsonville, got crosswise with local elected officials when he introduced HB 3084, which would expand Portland's urban growth boundary to allow eight landowners adjacent to the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility to sell their properties for industrial use. Metro President David Bragdon, along with the mayors of Tualatin and Wilsonville, criticized the move, saying local land-use issues need to be decided locally.
Some, however, see a ray of hope. "This was his best session ever," says one lobbyist. "Of course, that doesn't mean they ought to be changing the drapes in the governor's office."
First House session
Derrick, Derrick, Derrick. What are we going to do with you?
At the beginning of the session, some viewed the 29-year-old landscaper as a rising star for the GOP. He was young, well-spoken, friendly and ambitious.
He got some attention from fiscal conservatives for his bill (which got stuck in committee) that would have prevented any state official from earning more than the governor. He seemed to be looking out for his Washington County district when he proposed a "High Tech Hall of Fame" for the Capitol building. (That bill cleared the House but is stuck in the Senate.) "Good people skills, but politically naive," read a comment from an early response.
"He's kind of an odd guy with some odd bills, but everybody likes him," a Democratic insider reported after the first few months of the session.
But friendliness only goes so far, and sometimes too far. While other lawmakers stood at their desks during routine floor-session business, studying bills or consulting with colleagues, Kitts would roam outside the chambers, glad-handing staffers and lobbyists.
The practical jokes (pushing a colleague's voting button) began to grow old, and some reported that Kitts began to focus more on his personal life (his landscaping biz went into the toilet) than his legislative duties.
Then came the revelation that, in February, Kitts had been stopped for drunk driving in Longview, Wash., and refused to take a breathalyzer test. Suddenly, folks were less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. "Getting a DUII when already fighting a frat-boy image shows very poor judgment," says one critic.