Republican Steve Newgard is campaigning for a seat in the Oregon House based on his business background and his fiscal discipline.
"I've signed the front of paychecks," says Newgard, who lives in Milwaukie. "I have had to handle money in a responsible way."
Yet records show Newgard repeatedly failed to pay his property taxes for most of the past decade and also failed to pay his federal incomes in full for four years, according to an Internal Revenue Service lien.
In campaign materials, Newgard, 58, says he "has been running a successful small business in House District 40 for more than 25 years. (He is seeking the seat State Rep. Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone) is vacating. Newgard's opponent is former State Rep. Brent Barton (D-Clackamas)).
In an interview, however, Newgard acknowledged that by 2005 his masonry business was effectively dormant that he went to work selling building supplies for others.
As early as 2000, Newgard failed to pay taxes on his primary residence, Clackamas County records show. By 2006, he had accrued more than $12,000 of unpaid property taxes—about five years worth. He last fell behind in 2010.
Between 2003 and 2007, Newgard owed the the federal government $11,575, according to an IRS lien. That debt has also been paid.
More recently, Newgard owed back property taxes on an investment property he owns in Milwaukie. He paid off the total of $11,809 on July 30 of this year.
In the district he hopes to represent, which includes Gladstone and parts of Oregon City and Milwaukie, Newgard has distributed campaign literature that stresses the importance of paying taxes.
"Vote for people and policies that grow jobs so we can generate the tax dollars to fund education and other services that are essential," reads one campaign piece.
Newgard says his record of late payment of taxes is "nothing to be proud of."
He says the past decade presented a series of financial challenges. His contracting business, which once employed seven people, struggled in the housing downturns at the beginning and end of the decade.
"My income wasn't what it was before," Newgard says. He was determined to put one son through college without borrowing money, which he did. Over the past year, his late father required expensive health care.
"It's been kind of rough, but it's not like I filed bankruptcy," Newgard says. "I've come back and paid everything off."
He thinks many people in his district have faced similar problems and will be understanding.
"I probably should have done more liquidating [of assets]" Newgard says. "But I don't think it reflects on my ability to serve."