Our pads are full, our coffee cups are empty and our hair is hurting from our monthlong duty at Endorsement Central.

Nearly 30 races, 70-some candidates, hours of squabbling with our colleagues and, finally, we know who we like. But are we complaining? Hell, no.

We sweat so you don't have to.

And we've got a message for those of you who think it's all a hopeless mess in Salem, City Hall and Multnomah County, no matter who gets elected:

Wake up!

There are real choices this year. In the nonpartisan races (like those at City Hall, the county and Metro), it's not a pick between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. There are actually stark differences between the candidates.

In the contested partisan primaries (legislative races and the governor's race), there are also, in most instances, significant gaps in quality.

We hope this doesn't put our "Cynical Journalist" licenses at risk, but we actually believe this May 16 election could mark a turning point.

So check out our endorsements (complete with candidates' answers to vital questions like their worst job, their worst habit and the mode of transportation they used to get to our office), fill out your ballot and mail it in!

At least your mail carrier will get a workout.

Governor Ted Kulongoski

PRIMARY: Democratic

WORST HABIT: Getting up at 4 am.

Kulongoski's two primary opponents, former state treasurer Jim Hill and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson, blast the incumbent for lack of vision, a weak environmental record and a list of accomplishments shorter than the fuse on Sean Penn's temper.

They're right. And yet the guv's our choice in this primary.

That's partly because neither Hill nor Sorenson has much to offer beyond his rhetoric. Hill served two unexceptional terms as state treasurer and has not really worked much since, and his campaign seems driven more by anger than any vision. Sorenson is a competent county commissioner who, frankly, ain't quite ready for prime time.

To be fair, Kulongoski does deserve your vote for the occasional bursts of leadership he has demonstrated.

He stood up to the public employee unions and reformed the Public Employees Retirement System, a difficult but necessary step in stabilizing Oregon's financial obligations. And he led the state to invest billions in public infrastructure, at a time when Oregon's recession made any additional public spending very challenging.

True, Teddy K has been a disappointment in so many other ways. He's ducked many of the challenges facing Oregonians, whether that's affordable healthcare or ironing out our education problems. He seems unable to imagine a future for this state and get anybody excited about it.

We're not quite sure why. It may be that the 2004 Neil Goldschmidt scandal knocked the wind out of his administration. It may be that his health challenges have sapped his energy (he had prostrate cancer and, most recently, gall-bladder problems.)

It may be that the fire in his belly that was so apparent in the Kulongoski who ran unsuccessfully for governor in the early 1980s has dwindled to a flicker. We hope that a vigorous general election will rekindle the flame.

Governor Ron Saxton

PRIMARY: Republican

WORST JOB: Cleaning bathrooms while working as a custodian in high school.

If the three main Republican gubernatorial candidates went hiking and camping together, Saxton would be the Eagle Scout reserving the campsite, planning the meals and packing all the equipment; Kevin Mannix would be the tentmate straggling in late with a bottle of Maker's Mark; and Jason Atkinson would snooze through the hike and have his daddy drive him right to the campsite.

If Oregon were Louisiana, we might find ourselves endorsing Mannix, who has more political experience than his two opponents combined. Mannix, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general and the governor's seat prior to this race, had a remarkably pro ductive 13-year run as a legislator from Salem.

In that stretch, which ended in 2001, he wrote more laws and cut more deals than anybody in the Legislature. He's best known for Measure 11, the 1994 ballot initiative that implemented mandatory minimum prison sentences. Prisons were built, judges lost some of their powers, and, according to Mannix, crime dropped as a result.

Mannix is funny, smart and, in some respects, more moderate than his opponents. Unfortunately, he's also a wholly owned subsidiary of Nevada moneyman Loren Parks, who has contributed about a third of the money Mannix has raised in this race and bankrolled many of his past efforts.

That's less troubling to us than the swirling rumors that Mannix has played fast and loose with campaign funds both as a candidate and as chair of the state Republican Party for four years. The Oregonian did a good job a few weeks ago laying out a complicated and troubling money trail. Our takeaway message: great guy to have a drink with, but not gubernatorial material.

Atkinson, a 35-year-old state senator from Central Point, must be in this race to raise his profile for the future, because there's nothing in his record to suggest he's remotely ready for statewide office. In the Legislature since 1999, he has failed to make an impression. In private life, he runs a one-man consulting shop from his home and won't identify any clients.

Making even less of an impression, other than voicing some outlandish ideas, are candidates W. Ames Curtright, Gordon Leitch and William Spidal.

Saxton, by contrast, co-founded and has managed Ater Wynne, one of Portland's largest law firms. He served effectively on the Portland School Board from 1998 to 2002 and ran a creditable third in the 2002 GOP gubernatorial primary. He's smart, tough and focused. By beating the drum loudly and often in 2002, he helped pressure Kulongoski to make much-needed reforms in PERS, the state retirement system.

We're disappointed by his turn to the right, a sometimes unsightly but politically necessary choice to appease the red-meat crowd that votes in partisan primaries. And on the issue that's he's taken the most heat for—his get-tough stance on illegal immigrants—it's very hard to argue with the central point he makes: that if laws are on the books, they ought to be enforced. A Saxton-Kulongoski race will make for an exciting fall.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo

PRIMARY: Nonpartisan

HOW SHE GOT TO THE INTERVIEW: A beige-ish 2003 Honda Accord.

We were underwhelmed by Castillo when she was elected to her first term in 2002, writing then that "we have rarely interviewed a mainstream candidate so unprepared and unconvincing."

But strip away Castillo's edu-speak and polished peppiness and, four years later, she has turned out to be a capable manager directing the lumbering circus bear that is public education in Oregon.

As head of the Oregon Department of Education, the supe oversees how state and federal money gets doled out, and represents schools when dealing with the state Legislature, the feds, the public and the business community.

An ex-TV reporter, Castillo is tailor-made for the glad-handing end. And a third-generation American, Castillo says she's got the "right people on the bus" to continue an assault on the student achievement gap between affluent whites and Oregon's poor and minorities.

She also showed some chops by finally getting behind the abandonment of the little-understood certificates of initial mastery (CIM) and advanced mastery (CAM) programs for graduation.

Her only challenger is a financially independent Nebraska transplant who has strong convictions and good ideas about early reading skills being the linchpin of the educational system. But Deb Andrews has never held an elected office before and wasn't prepared to answer even the most basic questions about Oregon's education budget.

City Commissioner, Position 2 Erik Sten

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst Job: Cleaning fraternity bathrooms in college.

Here's who doesn't want Sten re-elected: Portland General Electric, NW Natural, Qwest, Comcast, Schnitzer Steel, The Oregonian, property magnate Pete Mark, power broker Tom Imeson, the Portland Business Alliance and any number of other fat cats used to getting their way. See any trend there?

Sten, who was elected to City Council at age 29, is now the longest-serving member, with 10 years on the job. In that time, he's parlayed his interest in creating more public housing to help generate 10,000 new low-income units.

He has worked to get the homeless off the sidewalks, and although the problem may seem as bad as ever, nearly 700 street people found permanent residences last year thanks to his efforts.

Sten has provided leadership both this year and three years ago to help solve funding crises at Portland Public Schools.

So why do the monopoly utilities and entrenched downtown business interests ache to get rid of a guy who's doing good work on tough issues?

Is it because he oversaw the Water Bureau as it screwed up a new billing system, which cost the city nearly $30 million? Not really, because many of Sten's corporate critics have also bought computer systems that didn't work.

Is it his support for Dignity Village, the ragtag collection of homeless clustered far from downtown? Nah, the Village is largely a non-issue that serves only to get the radio blabosphere all hot and bothered.

Instead, it's Sten's pursuit of Portland General Electric that put the bull's-eye on his back. When he saw that Enron and its local subsidiary PGE were ripping off ratepayers to the tune of about $100 million annually, he, unlike other public officials, actually tried to do something about it by pushing (unsuccessfully) for a public purchase of the utility.

It's difficult to overestimate what his actions did to rattle a significant slice of Portland's business elite. For decades, PGE has been a comfortable and largely unregulated monopoly, one that charged virtually whatever it wanted in rates, became a cozy landing spot for political officials who had been kind to the utility, bought off high-profile progressives with well-placed contributions and sloshed ad dollars among local media.

Sten jeopardized all that when he suggested that Portland follow the lead of Los Angeles, Seattle, Orlando and scores of other cities that already own the electric utilities that serve them.

The utilities and their pals didn't like that. That's why PR king Brian Gard and Portland Business Alliance chief Sandra McDonough, acting as the utilities' proxy, recruited Sten's chief opponent, state Sen. Ginny Burdick (who happens to work for Gard).

We are aware that we are leveling serious allegations against the forces aligned against Sten.

But anybody who reads the list of Burdick's contributors or the name of those paying to kill publicly financed elections knows what we say is true.

And our opposition to the Sten criticism is not an anti-business stance. This paper is fiercely free-market. But there is nothing free-market about this state's largest utility—which may help explain why Sten has more business supporters than does Burdick.

Burdick is an affable candidate who, after a decade in the Legislature, has established a record as anti-gun, anti-meth, pro-kids. To date, however, she's run a surprisingly lackluster campaign.

A third serious candidate, Dave Lister, the owner of a small computer programming business that he recently moved to Tigard, presents a clearer alternative.

In a city dominated by small businesses, Lister actually represents a broad-based constituency. He served on the city's small-business advisory council, has been around City Hall enough to familiarize himself with what happens there, and is a personable, self-effacing "Eastside Guy" who pens a monthly column for BrainstormNW.

A fourth candidate, Emilie Boyles, has so disgraced herself by her abuse of the publicly financed elections initiative that she may end up in jail if she doesn't flee the state. The rest of the field (Cisco Holdman, Lewis Humble and Jory "Moof" Knott) couldn't even get it together well enough to make the Voters' Pamphlet.

Which brings us back to Sten. He has made some errors and will make more, given his willingness to blaze political trails. But make no mistake: He possesses the most independent, most creative mind in Portland politics. If there is a defining race in this region this election, this is it.

City Commissioner, Position 3 Dan Saltzman

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst Habit: Directing anger at those who don't deserve it.

After watching Saltzman snooze through two previous re-election bids, this race at least woke us up.

Saltzman's top competitor, Amanda Fritz, is a nurse who spent seven years on the city's planning commission and more than twice that long as a neighborhood activist in Southwest.

(The other five candidates, Chris Iverson, Sharon Nasset, Lucinda Tate, Michael Casper and a preacher who goes by the name of "Watchman," fall into the also-running category.)

Late last year, Fritz demonstrated her grassroots support by easily gathering the 1,000 signatures and $5 donations needed to become the first candidate to qualify for $150,000 in public financing. She has a firm grasp of some important nuts and bolts of city government—wonky stuff like land use, tax abatements and permitting.

But Fritz comes up short in making the case against Saltzman. Here's what she could have said more clearly: Saltzman's proudest achievement, the five-year, voter-approved$42.5 million Children's Initiative, is a misplaced priority—child welfare is the province of Multnomah County, not the City of Portland—that sucks in money the city could otherwise use for any number of actual city services.

When pushed to criticize Saltzman, the best Fritz could muster was that his proposal to power the city with wind energy might cost PGE workers some jobs. Please.

In fact, there's a lot to like about Saltzman. He's a detail guy who usually makes decisions based on facts rather than emotion and political expedience. His insistence on covering over Portland's reservoirs was a classic example—the engineer in him knew it was the right thing to do from a public-safety perspective, even though affected neighbors hated the idea (and ultimately triumphed).

His initial hard-nosed approach to reining in the excesses of the city's ailing Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund (since tempered by a compromise that seems to have won unions' support) may have been politically maladroit, but his desire to place a fix on the ballot sent the right message.

Similarly, Saltzman's recent decision to change his mind and vote for additional funding for Oregon Health & Science University's tram pained critics of that boondoggle. But he took the logical position that scrapping the project would cost more than finishing it.

Finally, Saltzman's successful push for a local payday-loan ordinance led directly to the Legislature's passing stiff limits on the industry last week. That move alone ought to defuse one of the central criticisms of Saltzman—that the aloof property heir cares nothing for the little guy.

County Chair Ted Wheeler

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst habit: Shaking his leg (i.e., he's twitchy).

Wheeler has a couple of major advantages over incumbent Diane Linn. The most important may be that he is not her.

It's hard to know where to start with Linn. Her sincerity in supporting progressive causes is not in doubt.

But her brinkmanship leaves a lot to be desired. In the most recent example of a long trend, just last week Linn pissed off otherwise mild-mannered Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk when she tried to rebut former staff members' accusations that she had falsified public records. (She angered Schrunk by accusing a deputy district attorney quoted in WW of supporting her opponent when, in fact, it was someone else with the same name.)

Linn's blunders are legendary, from the debacle over her handling of the decision to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, to building the $60 million Wapato Jail with no funds to operate it. Three of the other four county commissioners have endorsed Wheeler, and the fourth is keeping his mouth shut.

In March, the county's well-respected, longtime finance director resigned (though it was later billed as a retirement), accusing Linn's office of asking him to misrepresent facts to the public. Last week, a former senior adviser revealed that Linn ordered her appointment calendar, a public record, to be doctored before giving it to a reporter in 2003 (a charge Linn denies).

Linn may very well be the most unfit elected official in Multnomah County since Bible-thumping, gay-baiting Commissioner Gordon Shadburne.

Fortunately, Wheeler is more than a warm body to fill Linn's seat. He's a brainy, hard-working wonk whose biggest liability may be his shortage of practical experience in government and the fact that his daddy is worth millions.

Neither disturbs us. If we have one caveat about Wheeler, it's this: In this race, he has been able to run out the clock, letting Linn self-destruct without getting pinned down himself on potentially controversial issues.

Still, Wheeler has written a thoughtful, if dull, book on government, has been a devoted volunteer for a homeless shelter and has several good ideas, including beefing up performance measures for county programs and switching to open-source computer systems, potentially saving taxpayers millions. He's also trying to find a regional solution to Multnomah County's crumbling bridges, though we can only wish him good luck in that seemingly impossible endeavor.

More important, Wheeler strikes us as honest and as someone who will work collaboratively with others, unlike Linn.

Terrence Smyth is also in this race. He is completely without qualifications.

County Commissioner District 2 Jeff Cogen

District: North Multnomah County

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst habit: He's a caffeine fiend.

Don't let the Land's End catalog-style campaign photo fool you. There is more to Cogen than corduroy and a winsome smile.

He's not quite Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction, the guy you call when you've got to get rid of the headless body and blood-soaked car in your garage. But around City Hall, where he was Commissioner Dan Saltzman's chief of staff, Cogen is known as a fixer, good at bringing opposing parties back together.

And if you've been paying attention to county politics over the past few years, that's a skill in short supply.

Cogen, a former trial lawyer and pretzel entrepreneur, has backing from Portland Mayor Tom Potter, former Mayor Vera Katz, current and former school-board members and a long list of local notables to fill the vacancy left by term-limited Commissioner Serena Cruz Walsh.

Everyone, it seems, but the labor unions, which are standing strong behind state Rep. Gary Hansen (D-Portland), who is also a former county commissioner. During his endorsement interview, Hansen wasn't able to give many specifics on how he'd keep himself from being unduly beholden to the powerful labor bloc.

We also liked candidate Xander Patterson's zeal and spunk. But his plan to solve the county's fiscal crisis by raising taxes seemed like political Brussels sprouts in a chocolate wonderland.

Also running is well-known schools spokesman and former TV news personality Lew Frederick.

Sheriff Paul Van Orden (write-in candidate)

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst job: Working construction for a mobbed-up developer in New Jersey.

Yes, it's unusual to endorse a write-in candidate.

But Sheriff Bernie Giusto does not deserve re-election, and his one challenger on the ballot, Don DuPay, can't be taken seriously.

Fortunately, Van Orden is no ordinary write-in. He has some name recognition, as Portland's noise-complaint officer for 10 years. And he has an enforcement background: In addition to upholding laws regarding clangorous band jams and predawn jackhammer mavericks, Van Orden worked in environmental enforcement in New Jersey in his early 20s.

In Portland, he has stood among angry residents, noisy neighbors, and sometimes the City Council to make peace from the most NIMBY of nuisance noise complaints.

And when it comes to the sheriff's office—a lock-up and patrol system with 1,690 jail beds, a $99 million budget and 835 employees—Van Orden says he has been on a cram course.

He wants to conduct a full-scale outside audit of the jails—where Giusto regularly overspends his overtime budget, with the side effect of enriching the deputies who ridicule him but nonetheless keep him in office.

Van Orden also plans to endorse the county commission's long-held dream of turning the elected sheriff's position into a job filled through a national search conducted by the personnel office. The former pro skateboarder has clearly done his homework.

But a vote for Van Orden is also very clearly a vote against Giusto, who has acted as if the public trust were little more than the sleeve he wipes his nose on. Giusto's response to criticism about his budgetary problems—a recent county audit bashed him for failing to collect the basic information needed to make fiscally sound staffing decisions—is usually a blustery recital of facts and figures that seem ancillary to the entire debate.

He took extraordinary measures to conduct an "intervention" for the husband of his current girlfriend, taking county employees away from public business for several hours in order to force the man, Jim Jeddeloh, to get on a plane to the Betty Ford Center.

The sheriff is so confident of re-election that the only contributor on his most recent campaign fund-raising report is Jeddeloh's soon-to-be-ex-wife, Lee Doss, who now goes by her maiden name. Let's shake Giusto awake. Write in Van Orden.

Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst job: Doing the books at a Les Schwab in Prineville as a single mom in the late 1970s.

Griffin-Valade is running to fill the seat vacated by her term-limited boss, Suzanne Flynn.

As a senior county auditor for the past seven years, and Flynn's second-in-command, Griffin-Valade has overseen several inspections of county spending, including investigations of assessment and taxation, and healthcare in the jails.

Griffin-Valade is more of a peacemaker than a crusader, more apt to find a solution than rush to the press with a damning report. But the longtime bureaucrat (in addition to her accounting degree, she has a master's in public administration) has dedicated her career to crunching the numbers of public spending, rather than allowing herself to be wooed by the political life, like her opponent, Democratic state Rep. Steve March, who hasn't worked as an auditor in 10 years.

March says he's running to fix a broken county. That may be, but Griffin-Valade is better qualified.

Council District 1 Rod Park

District: Fairview, Gresham, Happy Valley, Maywood Park, Troutdale, Wood Village, Damascus and parts of East Portland.

Primary: Nonpartisan

HOW HE GOT TO THE INTERVIEW: A red 1999 Corvette.

Running again for the Metro Council seat he's held for two terms, Park confesses that most people still have no idea what Metro is or does. (Hint: It's a regional government that serves 1.3 million people in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties and is responsible for garbage, land use, transportation and the zoo.)

"We need to do a better job at branding," he says, reinforcing a businesslike air that is backed up by a sharp suit and tasteful tie.

But even if the public has no clue, Park, whose family runs a landscaping nursery in Gresham, displayed a broad knowledge during his endorsement interview on issues from solid-waste contracts to elephant births. Park has a reputation for being enthusiastic, diligent and dedicated, but hard to dissuade once he has his mind made up.

None of that can be said for Park's sole opponent, Jim Duncan, who didn't even know Metro's yearly budget. His campaign literature consists of five typed pages including the following insight: "The $222.7 million Greenspaces Bond on the ballot for November is one I plan to support. However, I have not found out very much about the Greenspaces Bond."

It was also hard to tell if the creature on his murky necktie was a bird or a wolf.

Council District 4 Tom Cox

District: Northern Washington County, Cornelius, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Northwest Beaverton, Aloha, Bonny Slope, Raleigh Hills, West Slope, Cedar Mill and Cedar Hills.

Primary: Nonpartisan

HOW HE GOT TO THE INTERVIEW: Walked from another appointment 10 blocks away.

Tom Cox scares the establishment at Metro. He's smart, fearless and libertarian, now with a lowercase L. We think he's got some brainy ideas that will at least add a diversity of thought to Metro's left-leaning board.

Cox, a management consultant who as a Libertarian candidate (with a capital L) spoiled Republican Kevin Mannix's 2002 run for governor, is campaigning for Metro with radical ideas like basing budgets on a program's performance.

Now a registered Republican, Cox promises fiscally sound approaches to Metro, which he calls the "Island of Unwanted Toys" for its oversight of a mix that includes the Oregon Zoo, Portland Center for the Performing Arts and Expo Center along with transportation and trash pick-up.

Cox bills himself as someone who will "counter the anti-car, anti-housing, anti-business extremists" currently on the board. But in our minds, Cox's counterpoint to the board's majority should help it think through its actions more thoroughly.

Cox far outsmarts candidates like former state legislator and bricklayer Al Young as well as Kathy Christy, a real-estate agent and former Washington County commissioner.

Running a close second to Cox in our minds is former Intel manager Kathryn Harrington, who's been putting in plenty of community-involvement hours with Metro and Washington County since she left her high-tech job in 2004. But we had a hard time getting her to go beyond the usual platitudes during our endorsement interview.

Auditor Alexis Dow

Primary: Nonpartisan

HOW SHE GOT TO THE INTERVIEW: A white 2000 Mercedes.

Dow may be the most controversial auditor anywhere.

The two-term inquisitionista speaks her mind, dresses more like a power broker than a public servant and has an adversarial relationship with the government she monitors.

She has faced public tsk-tsking for sitting on the board of a lumber company. We don't care.

Dow has a history of audits that take on sacred Metro institutions, like the zoo and the Greenspaces program. We think she'll continue to do so.

Opponent Suzanne Flynn, who is term-limited out of her job as the Multnomah County auditor, is a nice, work-within-the-system professional.

But we want an auditor who isn't afraid to piss off management, because her real bosses are the voters. You won't get that with Flynn. You have been getting it with Dow.


Senate District 13 Larry George

District: Parts of Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill and Marion counties.

Primary: Republican

Worst habit: Eating whatever is in the fridge to the point that he's gained 25 pounds on the campaign.

The late Democratic éminence grise Clark Clifford once called President Reagan "an amiable dunce." So why tell that tale? Because that is what comes to mind when we think of Sen. Charles Starr, a 73-year-old legislative veteran who regularly scores at the bottom of WW's biennial survey of area legislators, "The Good, The Bad and The Awful."

Yes, Starr can point to charter schools and phonics instruction among his accomplishments. But this kindly gent also told us "Nothing in our society has been more destructive than no-fault divorce." His solution: covenant marriage licenses that would go only to couples who pledge to have premarital counseling and not separate unless they have counseling.

For a candidate with a more 21st-century view of life, there's Larry George, son of state Sen. Gary George (the Salem family plots thicken even further when you realize Starr is the father of state Sen. Bruce Starr).

Not that the bar is high, but Larry George is much more articulate and energetic than Charles Starr. George, a 38-year-old hazelnut processor and former head of the property-rights group Oregonians in Action, co-hosted a lively KXL radio program with Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard. And while he calls himself an unapologetic pro-life conservative, he says he's not one who will focus on social issues like Starr has.

Senate District 17 Sam Chase

District: Northwest Portland, Beaverton and Washington County.

Primary: Democratic

Worst habit: Golfing.

Given the, shall we say, spirited exchanges between Chase and two-term state Rep. Brad Avakian during their WW endorsement interview, we have no doubt either could hold his own in a Senate floor debate.

And we might have dismissed Chase as one more APL (annoying Portland liberal) who couldn't get anything done in Salem compared with the more experienced Avakian, a smart if thin-skinned member of the Ways and Means Committee who got high marks for brains and integrity in our biennial legislators survey.

But Chase gets our nod, in part because Avakian against Senate Bill 408, which requires that utilities collect no more in taxes from ratepayers than they actually pay.

While we generally don't like imposing litmus tests on candidates seeking endorsements, this bill was a huge test of an elected official's ability to withstand the considerable pressure of powerful, contribution-wielding utilities. Avakian failed.

Chase strikes us (and fellow endorsers ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Democratic House Leader Deborah Kafoury) as a smart vote for breaking through the biennial legislative logjam and standing up to special interests.

Senate District 24 Jesse Cornett

Primary: Democratic

District: Parts of east Multnomah and Clackamas counties.

Worst habit: Changes radio stations in the car every 30 seconds.

For a 30-year-old making his first run for office, Cornett has a pretty cool résumé. He helped to co-found both the Oregon Bus Project and blueoregon.com, the indispensable blog for political progressives in the state.

Of course, Cornett thinks his greatest accomplishment is the fact that he dropped about 100 pounds from his 320-pound frame after he packed on all that weight while campaigning in 2004 for John Kerry.

Cornett most recently worked for Secretary of State Bill Bradbury before hustling into the race once he got wind that incumbent Sen. Frank Shields might drop out for health reasons, and that Rod Monroe was dropping in.

Monroe is a war horse of a candidate who has served on Metro, in the Legislature and on the Mount Hood Community College Board, as well as run for statewide office. The two agree that their votes in Salem would be almost identical. Monroe says he is running again because "it gets in your blood.'' Time for a transfusion. Cornett is the fresher choice.


House District 27 Mike Bohan

Primary: Democratic

District: Beaverton and unincorporated sections of Washington County

Worst Habit: Watching too much TV.

We wouldn't have a problem with either of these candidates winning, but Bohan has a few advantages over opponent Tobias Read.

At the top of our list is life experience. Bohan, 54, has lived in Washington County for more than 20 years, chaired his county's Democratic party, served on the Democratic National Committee and been a Boy Scout leader. And, oh yeah, he holds a Ph.D. in physics and has worked as an engineer problem-solving computer-chip manufacture.

While virtually identical to Bohan in his progressive stances on the issues, the 30-year-old Read, who was once an aide to state Rep. Bryan Johnston and U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, seems not only a little green but a little too polished—like the preppy kid in school you thought might secretly be a robot.

He doesn't seem to be able to resist political platitudes, saying things like, "I'll put progress in front of partisanship," even if he means it.

Read, who recently moved into the district, works for Nike developing children's footwear but didn't want to be nailed down when it came to annexation, the hottest of hot-button issues for his employer.

House District 28 Eldon Derville-Teer

PRIMARY: Republican

DISTRICT: Beaverton, Aloha

WORST HABIT: Never finishing a task. If there are three bags of garbage to go out, he takes two. If he does the dishes, he'll leave one unwashed.

Let's not waste too much ink on this one. Derville-Teer thinks almost all social-service programs (except schools and the Oregon Health Plan for foster kids) should be eliminated and that anyone who commits a violent or sexual felony should go to prison for the rest of his life.

But we couldn't in good conscience endorse his slightly less incendiary opponent, Christopher Mentrum, because he couldn't even be bothered to get into the Voters' Pamphlet. Both say they're not raising money or doing much campaigning.

Luckily, Democratic incumbent Jeff Barker would have to be caught in flagrante delicto with barnyard animals before either of these two had a real shot at getting elected in November.

House District 29 Barry Lee

Primary: Republican

District: Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove

Worst habit: Smoking (about a pack a day).

According to the old G.I. Joe public-service announcements, "Knowing is half the battle." The other half is showing up.

Well, Lee showed up for his endorsement interview, and we found him a likable guy with the everyday horse sense that comes from a varied résumé as a military communications repairman, real-estate speculator, police officer, district manager for a furniture company and subcontracted driver for Oregon Health Plan patients.

His opponent, Cornelius Mayor Terry Rilling, wouldn't even bother to show up for our interview. Will he be too scared to debate opponents in Salem as well?

Because Lee says the Washington County Republican Party asked him not to advertise because it's backing his opponent, he's not pitching himself in the Voters' Pamphlet or raising any money. Still, he says he's very serious about wanting the job. That's more than we can say for his opponent.

House District 33 Mitch Greenlick

Primary: Democratic

District: Northwest Portland plus Cedar Mill and parts of Beaverton in Washington County

WORST JOB: Working at age 12 in a dog-collar factory in Detroit.

Greenlick, a two-term state rep seeking re-election, has a reputation for being arrogant and difficult (he scores well for brains and integrity in our Good, Bad and Awful survey). He doesn't exactly reject the idea that he's brainy (the dude is professor emeritus and past chairman of public health and preventive medicine at OHSU), but he does swear he plays nice with the gang that can't vote straight down in Salem.

He's not afraid to lay out what he thinks of an issue. On Beaverton's fixation on annexation, he says: "It's population penis envy when [and if] Hillsboro gets bigger than Beaverton."

His opponent, Jeffrey Kee, freely admits he's making his first run for office to build up name recognition for the future.

Greenlick wants to push through affordable healthcare for all Oregonians, a task that will require some budgetary alchemy and creative thinking. And Greenlick isn't averse to trying untraditional solutions. He is recovering from a recent struggle with lymphoma, which he has treated with chemotherapy and the touchy-feely-sounding visualization therapy, in which he imagines healthy, happy lymph nodes keeping his immune system strong.

Might take a little more than that to fix up all the state's political root canals and gallstones, but what the hell, it might be worth a try.

House District 37 Bev Backa

PRIMARY: Democratic

DISTRICT: Tualatin, West Linn, Lake Oswego

WORST HABIT: Being a know-it-all.

Our fault for making this the last of the interviews we conducted and scheduling it for a sunny Friday afternoon. But man, it would have been hard to sift out under any circumstances the feel-good dullery between Backa and her opponent Gerritt Rosenthal.

We were able to glean that Backa, a former marriage counselor, does have some stones: At age 19 she hitchhiked from Montana to Beverly Beach on the Oregon coast. And we think the wrangling skills she learned growing up on a cattle ranch might also come in handy in Salem.

But seriously, besides having a firm grasp on healthcare issues, her background includes real-estate development and helping her husband run a telephone and data equipment installation company. She is a well-rounded candidate.

Rosenthal, who came to his endorsement interview wearing buttons calling for the repeal of the Patriot Act and protection of Mount Hood, impressed us with his passion for the environment but little else. We can't speak to the third contender, J. Marty Olson, who never showed. And on a Friday afternoon, we were already quite content with Backa.

House District 42 Diane Rosenbaum

Primary: Democratic

District: Inner Southeast Portland

Worst habit: Falling asleep on the couch while watching TV.

Rosenbaum, a four-term incumbent, is an easy choice for re-election.

Rosenbaum's opponent, utility worker Gordon Hillesland, wants to raise more revenue and make it more difficult to get restraining orders. That's not quite enough to wrest our endorsement away from Rosenbaum, a solid, if unspectacular legislator who, in our Good Bad and Awful rankings last year, rated well in the underappreciated category of diligence.

A former phone-company technician and union member, she has worked on securing a refundable childcare credit, on providing for annual breast cancer screening for all women covered by health insurance, and on the pesticide disclosure law.

Rosenbaum is a solid labor and environmental vote, which accurately reflects the lefty politics of her constituents.

House District 44 Mark Kirchmeier

Primary: Democratic

District: North and Northeast Portland

WORST JOB: Fuller Brush salesman, summer 1974.

Kirchmeier has tried (unsuccessfully) to kill a deer, but Tina Kotek never has.

So why should anybody care in this most urbanized of districts? Because Kirchmeier—an assistant to Rep. Gary Hansen, who is vacating this seat to run for the Multnomah County Commission—raised deer hunting in our endorsement interview as an example of something he has in common with rural legislators.

And that willingness to reach across the much-vaunted urban-rural divide is essential for Portland lawmakers when it comes time to cash in a chit for their constituents.

This race come down to a choice between Kirchmeier, a political junkie who was a staff writer for WW 20 years ago, and Kotek, an energetic policy wonk who is the political director for Children First for Oregon. (A third candidate, former Multnomah County Democratic Party chairman Jim Robison, lacks his two opponents' chops.)

Kotek boasts several impressive endorsements, but her inability to answer straightforward questions and the hint of opportunism in her candidacy—she recently moved to the 'hood after a previously unsuccessful run in District 43—count against her.

Kirchmeier has toiled on University Park neighborhood issues for more than a decade, helped local schools get badly needed grants and helped push through the Interstate Urban Renewal Corridor—in addition to writing a pretty good biography of former Sen. Bob Packwood.

And even though he's a lousy shot with a deer rifle, Kirchmeier is the kind of lunch-pail public servant who will serve his district well.

House District 46 Mary Lou Hennrich

District: East Portland, including the Laurelhurst and Mount Tabor neighborhoods.

Primary: Democratic


In some legislative primaries, the choice is between Moe, Larry and Curly.

But in this open seat, any one of the five candidates could do a fine job. There's Cindy Banzer, a magazine publisher who served in the Legislature in the mid-'80s and on Metro; Mary Botkin, who has lobbied the Legislature for 18 years on behalf of the labor union AFSCME; Lynn Partin, a lawyer who has held a number of public-sector positions; Ben Cannon, a young teacher and Rhodes Scholar; and Mary Lou Hennrich, a nurse with 35 years' experience, much of it in healthcare management.

The choice here comes down to the potential of Cannon, a 29-year-old Bus Project whippersnapper who teaches at the Arbor School, or the experience of Hennrich, who is currently the director of Community Health Care Partnership and previously ran CareOregon, which provides health insurance for 95,000 Oregonians (before that, she ran Multnomah County's health clinics).

In this one, we'll take experience over potential. Hennrich is highly regarded in healthcare circles, and her knowledge of the Oregon Health Plan, primary-care system and healthcare economics will be a tremendous asset to a House desperately short on such expertise.

House District 51 Ryan Olds

Primary: Democratic

DISTRICT: Part of East Multnomah County and a bigger stretch of Clackamas County.

HIS REGULAR RIDE: '88 Gray Dodge Aries, which he jokingly agreed is a "chick magnet."

The Democratic Party could have tried a little harder to capture this seat, which Republican Linda Flores won in 2004 by a fairly narrow 6-point margin.

But whoever wins between the two candidates in this primary, Flores probably won't have to sweat too hard this November.

Democratic voters have a choice between Gary Blackburn, a 65-year-old farm owner whose fiscal conservatism is so fundamental that he left the Republican Party a couple decades back over President Reagan's deficit spending. The flinty farmer is interested in cleaning up campaign-finance laws and providing universal healthcare for Oregonians.

His opponent, 22-year-old Ryan Olds, is a political eager beaver, having volunteered for Democrat Bev Stein's failed gubernatorial campaign in 2002 and interned for Democratic state Sen. Rick Metsger last year.

Olds wants to end several corporate tax breaks, including the corporate kicker. He is bright, earnest and passionate about politics. And in this race, that's enough.

State Supreme Court Virginia Linder

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst job: Working as a hotel maid at the Shamrock Inn at Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1972.

Oregon is special. Along with Kentucky and Indiana, we are one of just three states where the state Supreme Court is uncontaminated with estrogen.

And now you ask, why care whether we're in such august company?

One recent ruling shows just how enlightened an all-man bench can get. In State v. Reed, the justices ruled last year that a father who had sexually abused his developmentally disabled daughter was not guilty of attempted rape because she was mentally capable of consent.

The court's current vacancy opened last year, when Chief Justice Wallace Carson stepped down. All three candidates for the seat agree gender diversity should be a priority. Two of them just think it should wait for the next vacancy. (Last week, another court vacancy came on the radar screen when Justice R. William Riggs announced he would step down by the end of the year.)

One aspirant, Pendleton trial lawyer Gene Hallman, last year mentioned the fact that no women were running for the seat when he was canvassing the state looking for endorsements. When Appeals Court Judge Virginia Linder ended up throwing her kerchief in the ring, that selling point went buh-bye. Oops.

Linder is more polished than Hallman, who accused Linder in WW's endorsement interview of poor productivity without offering any evidence to back up his claim. And she has much more experience on the bench than the other contender, Jack Roberts, a career politician and, gasp, a Republican.

But she's a girl! Why would you vote for her? All sarcasm aside, we think the time to put a woman on the bench is now.

Multnomah County Circuit Court, Position 31 Julia Philbrook

Primary: Nonpartisan

Worst job: Salad lady making $2.10 a hour during her freshman year of college.

We're not lawyers, but we know some. And here's what several said—as long as their names weren't used—about the five candidates for this Circuit Court seat.

Lawyer Trung Tu has the best back story, having come to this country as a boat person from Vietnam. And he has amassed an impressive list of endorsers but in the end, at age 32, is too inexperienced. Despite the need to diversify the county's predominantly white bench, we agree with our panel of lawyers who say he needs more seasoning.

Senior Assistant Oregon Attorney General Kathleen Payne struck us as no-nonsense and straightforward but didn't make much of an impression on our admittedly informal panel.

And that left three candidates who are pro tem judges, (they fill in as judges hearing motions), a good proving ground for refereeing disputes: Philbrook, Lane Borg, and Cheryl Albrecht, who won a recent Oregon State Bar preference poll for the seat.

We found all three showed the kind of even temperament we'd like if we ever appeared before a judge. But something stuck out for one lawyer who remembered Philbrook's patience with perhaps the toughest clientele of all, the mentally ill.

"She had such poise and calmness with them," the lawyer said. "She has no ego and is a clear, direct thinker." Sounds like a good judge to us.

1st Congressional DISTRICT Rep. David Wu

District: Northwest Oregon including west Portland and Washington County

PRIMARY: Democratic

Worst habit: Lack of exercise.

A word of advice for the next time a four-term congressman wants our endorsement. When you're asked what your biggest accomplishment has been this session, don't answer "the number of school visits I've made.''

But that lame answer aside, we're still going to endorse Wu over his three challengers in the Democratic primary. Like any breathing congressman, he can take credit for the highway and mass-transit pork he's brought home to his district.

Wu is an awkward sort. He's brainy (Stanford, Harvard, Yale) and has the social skills of a park bench, which means that in the clubby world of Congress, he ain't exactly part of the in crowd. But he is good at constituent service and appears to be principled (witness his stance against the Patriot Act and human-rights abuses by the Communist government of mainland China, which has put him at odds with Nike).

Wu, whose campaign has more than $575,000 in the bank, is blessed with three underfunded challengers.

Alexa Lewis, who works for VW Credit, is so eager that she accidentally showed up a day early for the endorsement interview. But she's making too big a leap with her first elective run, rejecting the idea of what she calls working with "small-potatoes issues" first at the local level.

Shantu Shah, a semi-retired Indian-born engineer, missed the joint interview. When he rescheduled, Shah turned out to be an affable sort we couldn't stay mad at (it didn't hurt that he's a big advocate of public power and campaign-finance reform), but also too politically inexperienced to endorse.

As for perennial candidate Pavel Goberman, he missed the interview and sent a nasty email that said "I do NOT respect this newspaper. And I do NOT need your endorsement." As Ned Flanders would say, "Okely-dokely."


Primary: Democratic

DISTRICT: East Portland, east Multnomah County, and north Clackamas County.

Worst job: Paper boy in seventh grade for the now-defunct Oregon Journal.

More than two years after closing the door on a second run for mayor, Blumenauer limped into our offices (he had tripped a few days back and broken his right foot taking out the recycling, we kid you not) with his usual place-name-dropping of all his congressional globe-trotting to advance the causes of "smart growth" and "livability."

And our chins began landing heavily on our palms when he began droning about he's "been working on the same old stuff" like transportation and protecting public broadcasting.

But our ears perked up with his answer to the question, "What's the first thing you'll do if the Democrats win back the House this year?" "Hearings to hold this administration accountable...it ought to be the first order of business." You go, Earl.

If that doesn't float your boat, here are two more reasons to back Blumenauer: He warned New Orleans was in sorry shape for the next major hurricane before Katrina hit, and he's made common cause with Oregon's only Republican House member, Rep. Greg Walden, on a Mount Hood wilderness protection bill.

Blumenauer's opponent, former city parks supervisor John Sweeney, has run unsuccessfully for so many different offices since last being on the Multnomah Education Service Board that even he has lost count. Sweeney's answer to the "worst habit" question: "persistence in running for public office." We agree. Take an election off.