WW’s General Election 2022 Endorsements: Oregon Legislature

Mark Meek is the kind of working-class Democrat in short supply in Salem.

Oregon Senate District 15

(Forest Grove, parts of Hillsboro)

Janeen Sollman

Democrat

Sollman, 53, moved up to the Senate via appointment after the retirement of state Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro). Sollman’s background shows a methodical consistency: She’s worked for the same company, Vernier Science Education, for 25 years. She served eight years on the Hillsboro School Board and five in the House before getting Riley’s seat.

The daughter of a violent, alcoholic father, she’s made mental health and education her top two areas of emphasis since coming to Salem. She’s a middling lawmaker but independent enough to vote in 2018 against a top teachers’ union priority, bargaining on class sizes. She has also been a leader on gun safety, helping to close the “boyfriend loophole” that exempted unmarried partners from the state’s red flag law.

Sollman’s Republican opponent, Carolina Malmedal, 52, is a first-time candidate who owns an 18-employee plumbing company with her husband. She says her motivation for entering the race is crime—specifically, multiple break-ins at her family’s business. “It’s cost us $15,000 each time,” she says. “We’ve had fuel lines cut and ignitions taken out of vehicles.” Malmedal deviates from her party in that she’s pro-choice, but she has often failed to vote in the past and displayed a disqualifying disdain for the public hearings and work sessions that allow lawmakers and Oregonians to vet a bill before it comes to the floor for a vote. We’ll stick with the incumbent.

On the menu for Sollman’s last meal: Sollman is gluten-free. She’d break that stricture with one of Helvetia Tavern’s giant burgers.

Oregon Senate District 18

(Cedar Hills, Aloha)

Wlnsvey Campos

Democrat

Just as colleagues in the House were getting used to Campos’ distinctive first name, the standout rookie lawmaker sought to move up to the Senate. The district, briefly represented by Rep. Akasha Lawrence Spence, runs from Cedar Hills through Aloha into some very rural stretches of Washington County.

If Campos, 26, is elected, she’ll become Oregon’s only state senator under the age of 50. That speaks to her self-possession and a noteworthy trend of progressive activists securing the Democratic Party’s nomination in suburban districts where Republicans can no longer compete. Campos was a modestly effective lawmaker in her two years in the House—she passed a bill ensuring Medicaid coverage for undocumented workers.

It’s a sign of how anemic the Republican Party has become in the ‘burbs that its strongest representation in this race is a guy who quit the GOP. That would be Rich Vial, 68, himself a state lawmaker until the gun lobby targeted him for a common-sense vote to close the “boyfriend loophole,” a gap in state law that allowed domestic abusers to keep their firearms if they weren’t married to their partners. Vial is now running as an unaffiliated candidate—and Republicans are left with Kim Rice, 52, a former schoolteacher fired for refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

We applaud Vial for reminding Republicans what a person of principle looks like. But it’s Campos’ time now. She’ll bring a valuable new perspective to the Senate.

On the menu for Campos’ last meal: Chilaquiles.

Oregon Senate District 17

(West Portland, Linnton)

Elizabeth Steiner Hayward

Democrat

Redistricting shifted this Senate district north and east. It loses Beaverton and picks up Forest Park, parts of Sauvie Island, and downtown Portland.

That means Steiner Hayward, 59, a family physician, gets to explain to voters in the central city why the state mental hospital is tossing distressed people back onto the streets of Old Town. She’s appeared in our office twice in the past month, to discuss her own candidacy and the pledge of health care as a right enshrined in Measure 111 (we’ll get to that on page 27).

We found her to be an intelligent, if prickly, defender of the status quo. It’s not many elected officials who would rise to defend Patrick Allen, embattled director of the Oregon Health Authority, whom Tina Kotek has already pledged to fire. Steiner Hayward’s willingness to do so suggests that, as co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee that doles out tax dollars, she sees her own legacy as entwined with the performance of Oregon’s government institutions.

By now you’ve gathered we aren’t happy with that performance. But we do see Steiner Hayward grappling, if awkwardly, with the most important issues plaguing the state. We believe her grasp of the complexities of the Oregon State Hospital is as firm as anybody’s in Salem. We’ll need her there. Her Republican opponent, John Verbeek, is a perennial candidate with nothing to offer.

On the menu for Steiner Hayward’s last meal: Natural, crunchy peanut butter.

Oregon Senate District 19

(Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin)

Rob Wagner

Democrat

The race to represent posh Lake O and its surrounding hills features two men of different dispositions. On one side is state Sen. Rob Wagner, 49, whose meteoric rise from union lobbyist to Senate majority leader has felt, at times, inevitable.

On the other is Ben Edtl, 44, a Republican provocateur who has made a name for himself protesting state pandemic restrictions. He owned several Portland cafes before lockdowns and mask mandates forced him, he claims, to shut them down. He was thrown out of Best Buy last December for refusing to wear a mask, and has launched a series of legal challenges to Oregon’s vaccine mandate.

Edtl is a social liberal with a refreshing sense of humor, but his politics are not pretty. He claims recent legislation to expand voter registration encourages fraud. He says he doesn’t know if the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Wagner’s refusal to engage with Edtl in our interview was disappointing. Maybe he knows it doesn’t matter: He represents a solidly Democratic district. Regardless, we need officials in Salem who are willing to talk to the public, no matter how difficult that task may be.

Wagner also struggled to articulate policy accomplishments during his four-year tenure in the Senate and offered few prescriptions beyond party-line platitudes: “My job this entire election cycle is to help my caucus members get elected and make sure we return the majority.” Still, he warrants your vote.

On the menu for Wagner’s last meal: A mug of Salt & Straw.

Oregon Senate District 20

(Oregon City, Gladstone, part of Happy Valley)

Mark Meek

Democrat

The incumbent in this district, Sen. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City), is one of the state’s most experienced politicians. He was first elected to the House in 1986 and since has served three separate stints in Salem with three terms on the Clackamas County Commission sandwiched in the middle. In 2018, Kennemer retired from his second stint in the House, telling constituents he was done. But in 2021, Sen. Alan Olsen (R-Canby) resigned and Kennemer won the appointment to replace him. Now, at 76, he wants another four years.

A retired psychologist, Kennemer is a moderate in his party and his health care background is useful. We think voters would be better served, however, by state Rep. Mark Meek (D-Gladstone).

Meek, 58, who currently represents House District 40, has a powerful personal story. Often homeless growing up, Meek served in the Air Force, put himself through college, and then came back to Portland, where he bought and ran what is now Mulligan’s Bar on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. Now a realtor and property manager, he’s the kind of working-class Democrat in short supply in Salem. He’s shown the steel to oppose the Oregon Association of Realtors, who bankrolled his first campaign in 2016. When he voted against the realtors on a no-cause eviction bill in 2017, they financed a primary opponent against him. He won anyway.

Meek opposed his caucus’s push to end the death penalty and stood up for his colleague, Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley), in her unsuccessful bid to replace House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland). In short, Meek is a grinder who has consistently shown independence and whose values reflect a once-red district where Democrats now hold a 7-point voter advantage.

On the menu for Meek’s last meal: Apple pie (yes, he really said it).

Oregon Senate District 24

(Parts of East Portland, Damascus)

Kayse Jama

Democrat

Jama, 48, won appointment to this seat when his predecessor, Shemia Fagan, was elected secretary of state in 2020.

Born into a nomadic family in Somalia, Jama emigrated to Oregon in 1998 to escape civil war. After earning a degree at Marylhurst University, he co-founded and ran United Oregon, a social justice nonprofit that serves immigrants, refugees and low-income Oregonians.

In Salem, Jama got a prized committee chair’s gavel quickly. He leads the Housing and Development Committee, where he has worked collaboratively with his GOP vice chair, Sen. Dick Anderson (R-Lincoln City). In his first session, he passed a bill that created a new state Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement. Along with state Rep. Khanh Pham (D-Portland), he persuaded the Legislature’s Emergency Board to allocate $18 million to relocate Afghan refugees after the U.S. removed its troops from their country.

Jama says his focus going forward will be looking for ways to speed housing construction of all types across the state. Oregon ranks among the pokiest states in the union on that score, so he’s pulling a work group together to examine building codes and other regulations that may be imposing unnecessary barriers. Jama’s Republican opponent, Stan Catherman, a Navy veteran and pastor with Simply Blessed Ministries who lives in Damascus, has raised less than $2,000 so far and doesn’t venture beyond the typical GOP talking points. Vote for Jama.

On the menu for Jama’s last meal: “I came from a country that has a lot of bananas,” Jama says. “I can’t have a meal without a banana.”

Oregon Senate District 26

(Hood River County, parts of Multnomah and Clackamas counties)

Daniel Bonham

Republican

Arguably the most scenic political turf in Oregon, Senate District 26 spanned the Columbia River Gorge from Corbett to Hood River—and now stretches farther east to include Mosier and The Dalles. Republican pear farmer Chuck Thomsen is leaving, and both parties have reason to think they can snag his seat. The political balance here is narrow: Republicans hold a 1,000-vote advantage over Democrats, but there are more than enough unaffiliated voters to swing the race.

Competitive seats often make for stronger candidates, and District 26 provides an object lesson. State Rep. Daniel Bonham, 45, owns Maupin’s Stoves & Spas in The Dalles and is perhaps the most sensible Republican we met this cycle. It’s not just talk: As a three-term state representative, Bonham was co-chief sponsor of a bill to ensure workers get paid family and medical leave.

We were less impressed by the Democrat in this race, Raz Mason, 53. She has an interesting and varied résumé, including a master’s of divinity from Harvard and a stint as a life coach. She was a police chaplain and now works as a security officer at a data center in The Dalles. But as Bonham offered granular answers on the condition of Oregon politics, Mason retreated into national hot-button issues like guns and abortion—which was odd, since Bonham is hardly a culture warrior.

We look for lawmakers who show independence and a passion for the state’s well-being. Bonham has repeatedly demonstrated both. In the most recent example, his threat to quit the House Ethics Committee presaged the thaw of a long-frozen report on whether Tina Kotek had retaliated against a fellow Democrat who crossed her while she was House speaker. We ask Bonham to keep speaking truth to power in the Senate—and voters to give him that chance.

On the menu for Bonham’s last meal: “It would be more than one, and it would be tacos.”

Oregon House District 25

(Beaverton, Southwest Portland)

Ben Bowman

Democrat

After redistricting, House District 25 now covers portions of Tigard, South Beaverton and Progress Ridge in Southwest Portland—a northeastern shift and substantial shrinking of a district that’s currently represented by Republican farmer Jessica George.

Ben Bowman is looking to end a near-20-year Republican hold on the former district, and it’s possible due to redistricting. Bowman, 30, is currently chair of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board and works at the Gladstone School District as the director of student support. He formerly worked as a policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Education, where he helped craft the state’s return-to-school COVID-19 policy and a 2020 rule that prohibited symbols of hate in classrooms, such as Confederate flags. He’s got relevant experience in Salem: Bowman previously served as chief of staff for Rep. Margaret Doherty, who served Tigard.

His opponent, Bob Niemeyer, 68, has run for Oregon office a total of six times. He’s an independent mechanical engineer who’s worked out of his home in Tigard for decades. He makes battle bots (none of which ever made it on television, sadly) and claims over 30 patents.

He’s a staunch Republican and is running on a platform of cutting taxes and curbing the power of state agencies to impose and collect them—including the Oregon Department of Transportation. We appreciate that Niemeyer thoughtfully penciled out his plans, but we disagree with his premise that transportation taxes are an overreach and that Pride flags should be banned in classrooms.

We liked that Bowman showed hard-to-come-by self-awareness when he admitted he and other policymakers at the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority should have reopened schools sooner than they did. We’re also intrigued by his idea to remove the governor as superintendent of public instruction. “It’s makes it weirdly political for the director of ODE” he says. We’re excited to see what he can do as a rookie legislator.

On the menu for Bowman’s last meal: Thanksgiving dinner.

Oregon House District 26

(Hillsboro, Sherwood, King City, Tigard, Wilsonville)

Courtney Neron

Democrat

Having shifted east in redistricting, this suburban Washington County district now extends from Hillsboro to Wilsonville, where Neron lives. She was a high school French and Spanish teacher until 2018, when she rode a blue wave into the House. In our last anonymous ranking of lawmakers “The Good, Bad and Awful,” respondents described Neron, 43, as goodhearted but a little lost. That was back in 2019, but she hasn’t distinguished herself much since. She’s vulnerable this year.

Neron faces vigorous opposition from Republican Jason Fields, 52, who is campaigning on his opposition to highway tolls. That’s a winning pitch in Washington County, but we are hard pressed to remember a candidate who loves cars so much. He’s built them, for one thing—manufacturing Volkswagen Bugs—and has sold tow trucks to boot. His platform is the open road. In our endorsement interview, Fields even suggested Yamhill County should eliminate all public buses and replace them with Ubers. “I sometimes think we should reconsider this whole bus idea,” he mused.

We aren’t on board. Stick with Neron.

On the menu for Neron’s last meal: Artichokes, straight from the garden.

Oregon House District 27

(Beaverton, Cedar Hills)

Ken Helm

Democrat

When we asked Helm, 57, for his last food on earth, our fun question, he said vanilla ice cream, Tillamook to be specific. It’s hard not to chuckle. Helm isn’t fancy, like Salt & Straw’s Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. He’s not decadent, like Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough Chunks. And he’s certainly nothing like Baskin-Robbins Wild ‘N Reckless sherbet.

But like Tillamook vanilla, Helm is good.

A land use lawyer by trade, Helm is a soft-spoken, polite legislator who is focused on an issue that tops the list for many Oregonians: the environment. Since being elected in 2014 with the backing of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, he has been a thoughtful champion of the environment, passing bills to promote solar, increase energy efficiency in buildings, transition Oregon to 100% clean electricity, and prevent the poaching of wildlife.

Helm says he’s an introvert who prefers policymaking to door knocking. Nonetheless, he’s been out meeting voters in the new parts of his district, which includes much of Beaverton, Cedar Hills, West Slope and West Haven-Sylvan, and tiny pieces of Portland. Top of mind for them: homelessness. “They perceive Portland to be out of control,” he says.

As for solutions, Helm says he’s impressed by the outreach workers deployed by Beaverton and Washington County who hit the streets to help houseless people get services they need. He also likes a program that provides safe parking for people living in cars.

Helm’s opponent, a retired reading tutor named Sandra Nelson, says she’s running because Joe Biden and other Democrats stole elections in 2020, including some in Oregon. Climate change, she says, is cyclical and has nothing to do with the burning of fossil fuels. “I believe there is always climate change,” Nelson, 73, says.

Given that, we see no reason to exchange Helm for Nelson.

On the menu for Helm’s last meal: Tillamook vanilla ice cream, as discussed.

Oregon House District 28

(South Portland, Tigard)

Dacia Grayber

Democrat

Grayber, 47, has represented a district that spanned Tigard and Southwest Portland. District 28 shifted east in redistricting and now covers parts of the South Waterfront, extends west to Raleigh Hills, and dips down to cover portions of Tigard. That’s where Grayber lives, so she gets to run again.

Good thing, too. Grayber, a firefighter and paramedic for more than 20 years, has been a strong rookie legislator. She successfully championed a wildfire preparedness bill, along with a bill to expand cancer insurance coverage for firefighters—despite strong pushback from insurance companies.

She says her greatest failure so far as a legislator was not fighting harder to reopen schools earlier than fall 2021. She says the state needed to act with more urgency to improve HVAC systems in classrooms: “We had a year to improve ventilation in schools, and we didn’t get it done.” We like that she can break with pandemic pieties and admit mistakes. She also delivered a valuable warning against proposing new taxes amid skyrocketing inflation.

Grayber’s Republican opponent, Patrick Castles, 72, would seek to eliminate many existing taxes he says unfairly burden him and fellow seniors, including the corporate activities tax that funds schools. He raises a concern shared by many people on a fixed income—but his doubts about climate change would undermine the state’s need to craft aggressive legislation to arrest the catastrophic fires Grayber must fight. We urge you to vote for her.

On the menu for Grayber’s last meal: Giant ice cream sundae with peanut butter-chocolate ice cream, caramel and whipped cream.

Oregon House District 29

(Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove)

Susan McLain

Democrat

McLain, 73, a longtime schoolteacher and debate coach, was inducted this year into the National High School Hall of Fame. During her eight-year tenure in Salem, she’s wrangled irascible state legislators as easily as her former students, although she can seem a bit overwhelmed as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. We’ve not always agreed with her positions—her deference to the needs of farmers has come at the cost of wetlands—but we appreciate the tenacity with which she’s secured school funding for her district, which extends west past Hillsboro to the edge of the Coastal Range. (In our last “Good, Bad and Awful” rankings, she rated “Bad.”)

This term, McLain says her biggest priority is infrastructure. Oregon’s roads and bridges are crumbling. We hope her steadfast focus on completing the state’s new $5 billion bridge across the Columbia River won’t distract her from Oregon’s myriad other needs.

Still, we’re glad McLain is a capable politician: There’s no viable alternative in this race. Her opponent, Gina Munster-Moore, has called pandemic mandates “medical tyranny” and says Oregon has “slipped into authoritarianism.” We back McLain.

On the menu for McLain’s last meal: Blueberries.

Oregon House District 30

(Hillsboro)

Nathan Sosa

Democrat

Sosa was appointed earlier this year when Janeen Sollman moved up to the Senate. His district shrank this year. He still represents Hillsboro, just a smaller part of it. A lawyer who’s served on the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, Sosa, 39, is notably soft-spoken. So is his Republican opponent, Intel software engineer Joe Everton, 45. Our endorsement interview felt like a whisper campaign in the most literal sense.

They’re both bright guys, if philosophical opposites. Sosa wants more public school funding; Everton wants less. We liked Sosa’s big idea for the next session: expanding college work-study programs so students can pay their tuition by working at nonprofits. Everton, who narrowly lost a school board race last year, is preoccupied by parents reviewing school curriculum. Sosa’s thinking is more productive for his constituents. Keep him.

On the menu for Sosa’s last meal: Double fudge chocolate cake.

Oregon House District 33

(Northwest Portland)

Maxine Dexter

Democrat

Dr. Maxine Dexter has represented the 33rd House District since 2020, when she was appointed to replace the legendary Rep. Mitch Greenlick, who died that May at age 85. Later that year, she won election to the district, which includes downtown, the West Hills, Linnton, and almost all of Forest Park.

Many experts considered Greenlick—an irascible scold who didn’t suffer fools—the Legislature’s top mind on public health. Dexter, 49, a physician at Kaiser Permanente, has carried his work forward with a softer touch, using her medical training to tackle the health care crisis and the opioid epidemic.

Dexter says the achievement she’s most proud of so far is pushing the state to appoint an ombudsperson for the prison system, a position that had been empty for 20 years. During the pandemic, when fires also threatened Oregon prisons, inmates and their relatives had no advocate, Dexter says. During future crises, they will.

In the next session, Dexter plans more work on health care, opioids, housing and climate change. She calls herself “a pragmatic iterist,” a term we dig—it means tweaking policy a little bit at a time.

Case in point is the opioid harm-reduction package of bills she plans to introduce. It doesn’t contain provisions for safe injection sites. Dexter supports such sites, but knows they are controversial. The package does include legislation that would let school officials administer naloxone to treat drug overdoses and allow first responders to distribute it.

Dexter is similarly pragmatic on housing. She thinks the state should loosen building codes to allow single-room-occupancy apartments that don’t have individual kitchens and bathrooms, a move that would lower development costs and make housing more affordable.

It’s a good thing we like Dexter so much, because her opponent, Stan Baumhofer, isn’t putting up much of a fight. He was an adviser to late-’70s Portland Mayor Connie McCready, but his platform—school choice and more cops—feels a little thin. He got only 878 votes in the Republican primary, which was enough to win in the heavily Democratic 33rd District. Dexter is the right choice.

On the menu for Dexter’s last meal: A fresh peach, right off the tree.

Oregon House District 34

(Bethany, Oak Hills)

Lisa Reynolds

Democrat

After redistricting put her in the same district as another freshman legislator, fellow doctor Maxine Dexter, Reynolds moved to the Oak Hills neighborhood to compete for the redrawn House District 34, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. As maps were redrawn, this district did a somersault from the south side of Highway 26 to its north—it now covers the parts of Washington County west of the West Hills.

Reynolds, 58, is a freshman lawmaker, but she’s already left a mark. Last year, she co-sponsored successful gun control legislation that requires weapons be stored safely at home. We appreciate Reynolds’ ambitious agenda, which includes building more homeless shelters and diverting money to child poverty.

Her top concern: Oregon’s mental health care system is in shambles. The state hospital where people go for court-ordered mental health treatment is full—and because the state didn’t build enough community treatment beds, there’s nowhere for patients to go except jail and the street.

Perhaps no one in the statehouse understands this issue as well as Reynolds, a pediatrician whose brother suffers from schizophrenia. The Legislature has begun to heap money on the problem in recent years, but Reynolds understands the job is still far from done. “It’s a parched desert and we’re starting to pour water on it,” she says.

Her opponent, John Woods, is well meaning but does not appear to be running a serious campaign. He has raised less than $3,000 and says he decided to run only hours before the deadline—after his wife turned down a request from the Washington County GOP that she run. Reynolds is the pick here.

On the menu for Reynolds’ last meal: Her grandmother’s spaghetti and meatballs.

Oregon House District 35

(Aloha)

Farrah Chaichi

Democrat

You may recall from our endorsement of Wlnsvey Campos an observation that the Democratic Party is seizing its advantage in the suburbs to nominate candidates well to the left of their constituents. Nowhere is this more evident than in House District 35, where Chaichi seeks to represent many of the people Campos did. (The geographical shift of this district is too complex to explain here; suffice it to say Chaichi would inherent most of Campos’ voters in the farmland around Aloha.)

Chaichi, 36, handles client intake at the Portland law firm Stoel Rives. She’s personable and progressive. The first bill she would introduce would establish a statewide “right to rest”—that is, it would sanction camping by unhoused people, an idea that can’t sit well with many Washington County voters who view Portland tents with dread. The pivot left from the area’s longtime lawmaker, former police union president Jeff Barker, is startling.

And there’s little Republicans can do to arrest it while they’re nominating candidates like Daniel Martin, 67, the owner of a Beaverton courier car company. Martin could not name a single person endorsing him. We won’t either. Vote for Chaichi.

On the menu for Chaichi’s last meal: Potatoes.

Oregon House District 36

(Hillsboro)

Hai Pham

Democrat

Few candidates have as compelling a reason for running as Hai Pham. When Pham was 27 years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a “death sentence,” he recalls. The son of immigrants who fled Vietnam to Corvallis, he knew his parents couldn’t afford the medical bills.

“That turned my world upside down,” says Pham, now 43. “I realized how broken our system is.”

Fortunately, Pham had just finished dental school and was entering residency at Oregon Health & Science University. Doctors there gave him the medication that would save his life. Now, he’s a pediatric dentist who owns a chain of dental clinics and serves as an adviser to Gov. Kate Brown on her Children’s Cabinet. He’s also running to represent Hillsboro in the state Legislature.

Oregon is fighting to fix a health care system battered by a pandemic and sputtering economy. Pham understands the stakes. He says his dental office is struggling to keep its staff, and as a consequence, kids are waiting longer for the dental clearances required for organ transplants. He wants to streamline the credentialing process for dental assistants and create new vocational programs.

We believe his experience with the state’s health care system as both a patient and businessman (his dental chain employs 20 people) will provide a jolt of fresh perspective in Salem. Pham’s opponent, a tech founder named Greer Trice, joined the race in August. He calls himself an “agrarian intellectual” in the Voters’ Pamphlet, and his policy positions (“Greer stands for the rights of every Oregonian to be free from government overreach at every level”) are abstract enough to make us uneasy. Vote for Pham.

On the menu for Pham’s last meal: Mom’s pho.

Oregon House District 37

(West Linn, Tualatin)

Jules Walters

Democrat

Two terms after defeating one of the metro area’s most visible Republicans, state Rep. Julie Parrish of West Linn, state Rep. Rachel Prusak (D-West Linn) decided she couldn’t afford to serve any longer. The easy choice to succeed her, in a district that used to be a swing seat but now has a 13-point Democratic registration advantage, is West Linn Mayor Jules Walters.

Walters, 51, boasts a long track record of civic engagement, volunteering for youth and community organizations. She won election to the West Linn City Council in 2018 and won the mayor’s post in 2020. (She was not in power when West Linn police infamously targeted Michael Fesser, a Black Portlander whose boss at a towing company persuaded officers to falsely arrest him.) As mayor, Walters teamed up with Lake Oswego to hire a police officer highly trained in behavioral health so both cities could defuse volatile situations.

Walters’ level of engagement in the community and her municipal governance experience give her the edge over Republican Aeric Estep, 36, who works in sales for an HVAC company. Estep’s a pleasant, thoughtful candidate who’s more friendly to immigration than many in the GOP. He and Walters both identified diversion of traffic off Interstate 205 if tolling is imposed as an enormous issue in the district. We think Walters is more equipped to go to Salem to deal with it.

On the menu for Walters’ last meal: Apizza Amore (capicola and basil) at Apizza Scholls.

Oregon House District 38

(Lake Oswego, Dunthorpe)

Alistair Firmin

Republican

One of the biggest complaints we hear from Republicans during this election is that one-party rule by Democrats is ruining the state, the county and the city. Unfortunately, too many of the right-leaning candidates moaning about that phenomenon are walking advertisements for their Democratic opponents.

Alistair Firmin is different. He’s running for the House district that includes Lake Oswego and the neighboring enclave of Dunthorpe. It has a panhandle that reaches up to Oregon Health & Science University in Southwest Portland.

Firmin says he’s an old-school “Rockefeller Republican”—his words—who is liberal on social issues and fiscally conservative. He grew up in a union household and went to public schools (so do his four kids). He’s pro-choice and supports gun regulation. He believes Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

Firmin, 54, says he filed to run for House District 38 on the day of the deadline, with 30 minutes to spare, because he read an op-ed in The Oregonian by state Rep. Marty Wilde (Eugene), who said he was leaving the Democratic Caucus because it had “stopped acting democratically.”

The piece was a clarion call for Firmin, who believes a one-party state has reduced accountability for what’s done with the big tax packages Democrats pass.

Like many of his fellow Republican challengers, Firmin is a political novice. (He has his MBA and he’s worked at General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, NTT Data and The Standard.) But unlike other challengers on the right, Firmin has civic experience. He was chairman of the board at OMSI for two years, and he put in another three as its treasurer before that.

We liked Firmin’s opponent in this race, Democrat Daniel Nguyen, a Lake Oswego city councilor who was born in Camas, Wash., to Vietnamese refugees.

Nguyen, 43, started the excellent Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen in the South Waterfront, and we were impressed with his command of the issues, but we were more impressed with Firmin’s energy and his promise to seek a middle ground in a polarized state.

The Independent Party of Oregon endorsed only five Republicans this cycle, and Firmin was one of them. It may be wishful thinking, but we hope he will show other moderate Republicans a path into the Legislature and that his common sense will rub off on the ones already there.

On the menu for Firmin’s last meal: Cioppino, an Italian seafood stew.

Oregon House District 39

(Happy Valley, Damascus, Oregon City)

Janelle Bynum

Democrat

For three terms, Bynum, 47, has represented a House district covering East Portland, Canby and Viola. After redistricting, House District 39 will now cover most of Happy Valley, Damascus and Oregon City, and falls solely in Clackamas County, no longer extending into Multnomah County. That means, if elected, Bynum will represent a more racially diverse voter base than before—she says it includes 14% Asian families and 8% Latino families.

As the Black owner of four McDonald’s restaurants (and trained as an electrical engineer and business administrator), Bynum has brought an interesting counterpoise to the Legislature: She’s more moderate than many of her fellow Portland-area Democrats, while also being more closely attuned to racial injustice.

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, that placed Bynum in an ideal position to advance police reforms. She did so, crafting and passing a bipartisan slate of reform bills in 2021 to discipline violent cops and weed out biases of prospective officers during the hiring process. She also passed the CROWN Act, which prohibits discrimination against the natural hair of Black people.

At other times, Bynum has operated in an uncomfortable relationship with her own party—which remains predominantly white and in lockstep with organized labor. Bynum alleged last year that retiring House Speaker Tina Kotek had promised Bynum her job, only to renege on the succession plan. (Kotek denies she cut a deal.) When Democrats chose new leadership this spring, they snubbed Bynum again. We think that says more about the party than Bynum.

At any rate, Bynum’s opponent, Republican Kori Haynes, an insurance claims adjuster, is anti-abortion, wants parents to be allowed to opt out of what she calls “controversial” lessons, and calls the lockdowns during the pandemic “illegal.” Vote for Bynum.

On the menu for Bynum’s last meal: Skillet-fried fish and grits.

Oregon House District 40

(Gladstone, parts of Oregon City)

Annessa Hartman

Democrat

This seat is open as incumbent state Rep. Mark Meek (D-Gladstone) seeks to move up to the Senate. Democrat Annessa Hartman is our choice to succeed him.

Right before the pandemic hit, Hartman made a career move: She got out of catering (the culinary school grad had worked a lot of jobs over the previous decade, including managing catering for Intel) and went into the hotel business, taking a job in sales at Marriott. COVID-19 brutalized the hospitality industry.

Hartman, 34, a member of the Cayuga Nation, says she took the pandemic as a sign. She ran for the Gladstone City Council in 2020 and took a new job with Unite Oregon, which helps immigrants, refugees and low-income Oregonians. The stepdaughter of a soldier, she bounced around from state to state growing up and wants to focus as an elected official on the power of community. One big issue for her in Gladstone, and in Salem, should she get elected: traffic diversion from tolling the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to impose on Interstate 205.

We like her experience working in the lower echelons of the private sector. That’s not a voice that gets heard often in Salem. Her Republican opponent, Gresham Police Officer Adam Baker, made a good impression in the primary, but his conservative platform is out of step with a district that has shaded increasingly blue and now has a 10-point Democratic advantage.

On the menu for Hartman’s last meal: Ramen, with an old fashioned to wash it down.

Oregon House District 41

(Milwaukie)

Mark Gamba

Democrat

Gamba reminds us of Jerry Brown, the former governor of California—in a good way.

After Brown served as governor, he took the thankless job of being mayor of Oakland because he was still eager to serve. Gamba hasn’t traded down like that, but he has served two terms as mayor of Milwaukie, a job that pays him an insulting $300 a month.

And Gamba, 63, deferred to Jamie McLeod-Skinner rather than make a second run at Congress: He felt she had a better shot because the redrawn district included her stronghold of Bend.

Instead, Gamba is seeking the Oregon House seat that, after redistricting, includes his home base of Milwaukie as well as Oak Grove, Sellwood, and parts of Portland.

Gamba knows the issues, and he’s not afraid to take unpopular positions. Case in point: He stands by his support for Measure 110, the 2020 initiative that reduced penalties for many hard drugs and made Oregon the first state to decriminalize possession.

Many politicians, including Gamba’s GOP opponent, Rob Reynolds, say Measure 110 has made the opioid and meth scourges worse by attracting people to a legal drug paradise. Gamba admits the rollout of Measure 110 was flawed, with millions of dollars for addiction treatment stalled for months as the committee in charge of making grants struggled to pick winners.

But the alternative, harsh penalties for possession, is worse, Gamba says.

“We’ve had a war on drugs since Reagan,” Gamba says. “How well has that worked? Measure 110 money is just now hitting the streets. To turn around and scrap it now? That’s not even trying.”

Gamba can point to legitimate progress in his 10 years on the Milwaukie City Council, seven of those as mayor. There are 2,000 housing units in the planning phase or under construction in Milwaukie right now, more than in the past 40 years combined, Gamba says.

He could do a lot worse and still win our endorsement. Reynolds says he’s running to stop tolls that are proposed to fund seismic improvements and add a lane to bridges on Interstate 205 where it runs through the district.

Reynolds says the tolls are illegal because Title 23 of the U.S. Code governing highways prohibits tolls on federal roads. But, as Gamba pointed out in their endorsement interview, Title 23 has exceptions that allow tolling for construction and congestion management.

Reynolds, who sells commercial security systems and is on the road a lot, is a nice guy. But not having the facts straight on your signature issue is a disqualifier for us. Go with Gamba.

On the menu for Gamba’s last meal: A ripe guava freshly picked off the tree.

Oregon House District 42

(Southeast Portland)

Rob Nosse

Democrat

Some people call Nosse’s district in Southeast Portland the “Portlandia District” or “the Kremlin.” It includes the hyperlefty Hawthorne District and Ladd’s Addition, and a narrow band of Northeast Portland between Interstate 84 and East Burnside Street.

In redistricting, he lost bolshevik Woodstock and picked up bougie Laurelhurst.

Even so, Nosse, who’s represented the old district for four terms starting in 2014, is unlikely to be defeated any time soon. His opponent this year, Republican Scott Trahan, is running on a boilerplate platform of charter schools and crime crackdowns.

It would be tough for anyone to make a case against Nosse, 54. He started his career in Oregon as a union representative, first for Service Employees International Union and then at the Oregon Nurses Association. Among his recent accomplishments is getting better pay and benefits for mental health workers, who are in critically short supply.

He’s a gifted communicator who gave us detailed answers on the toughest issues facing Portland right now, and he did it succinctly.

“Politicians who talk too much are annoying,” Nosse says.

On Measure 110, the third rail of this campaign season, Nosse takes ownership for its struggles—that was rare among incumbents this cycle—and he had the best idea we’ve heard for how the whole mess could have been avoided. He says he would have set up and funded the drug treatment programs that were supposed to supplant incarceration and then eased penalties six months later. Instead, the opposite happened. Few new treatment centers were up and running when possession laws were eased, and a Kafkaesque bureaucracy kept treatment funds from flowing.

We admire Nosse’s candor and taking responsibility for where Salem has gone awry. Voters should send him back for another term.

On the menu for Nosse’s last meal: A whole bag of Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper potato chips.

Oregon House District 43

(North and Northeast Portland)

Tawna Sanchez

Democrat

For six years, Sanchez, 61, has effectively represented this district, which stretches from Interstate 84 northward to Highway 30 and covers the Lloyd District, Albina, Irvington and Alberta. (She used to represent the Cully neighborhood, but she lost it in the 2020 redistricting.)

Sanchez, whose other job is managing the domestic violence program at the Native American Youth and Family Center, is the only Indigenous member of the House. That gives her a nuanced understanding of Portland’s competing needs. For example, Sanchez says Portland needs more police, even though she’s experienced bias at their hands.

“I have been stopped many, many times, and every time but once,” she says, “the very first question that gets asked of me as a Native American with feathers hanging from my rearview mirror is, ‘Have you been drinking today?’”

Sanchez thinks Measure 110, the initiative that replaced incarceration with treatment for drug possession, needs more teeth. So far, she says, cops aren’t handing out many $100 tickets for possession, which creates little incentive to seek treatment. “There is not enough enforcement,” Sanchez says.

That’s a brave thing to say in hyperliberal pockets of Sanchez’s district, and she goes further, expressing her disdain for rioters who trashed the city during the 2020 protests.

“This is my city,” she says. “I was raised here, and I’m pissed off about the fact that people came from lots of different places and made a mess of my city.”

Sanchez serves as co-chair of the powerful Joint Ways and Means Committee, but she says her proudest moment in recent sessions was embedding the protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act in Oregon statute. Congress passed the ICWA in 1978 to stop the removal of Native children from their families and tribes in foster care cases. Enshrining the federal protections in Oregon law was important because the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to review ICWA this term and may repeal it, Sanchez says.

Sanchez is likely to win reelection, regardless of what we think. Her Republican challenger, Tim LeMaster, 49, is a retired Marine frustrated by tents and trash. He was recruited to run against Sanchez by a GOP operative from Clackamas County. We thank LeMaster for his military service and appreciate his concern about Portland, where he’s lived for nine years, but Sanchez is the obvious choice for the 43rd.

On the menu for Sanchez’s last meal: Cheesecake.

Oregon House District 44

(North Portland)

Travis Nelson

Democrat

For 15 years, Kenton was Tina Kotek Country. Nelson, a nurse and union organizer, was appointed to Kotek’s seat in January, when she resigned to run for governor. He now seeks a full term. We predict he’ll soon be well known in his own right.

That’s because Nelson, 43, is one of the most impressive candidates we met this cycle. Born Black and queer in rural Louisiana, he worked as a janitor and landscaper before moving into critical care nursing. Nelson can speak with authority and insight on the crisis of methamphetamine psychosis in emergency rooms and the staffing shortage that has left hospitals incapable of dealing with the distressed people they’re seeing.

And he took a difficult vote in his sole session, voting against his caucus and some fellow nurses by saying no to a bill that increased the criminal penalties for assaulting a nurse. He persuasively argues that special treatment under the law for nurses shows a lack of compassion for people having the worst day of their lives—and lets hospitals off the hook for unsafe working conditions.

His Republican challenger, Rolf Schuler, is campaigning on a platform of “no more lockdowns,” which strikes us as fighting the last war. We see a bright future for Nelson, and he gets our nod.

On the menu for Nelson’s last meal: Peaches.

Oregon House District 45

(Northeast Portland)

Thuy Tran

Democrat

Every so often, we encounter a candidate who has no chance of winning but makes a pretty great point. That’s George Donnerberg, 77, who has mostly retired from real estate appraisal but recently noticed a piece of property: Big Four Corners Natural Area along Northeast Airport Way. He was troubled the wetland had turned into a vast homeless encampment and chop shop—a lawless place in the woods. Unlike some of his fellow Republicans running on cleaning up the streets, Donnerberg struck us as genuinely perplexed and saddened that such a thing could happen. His lament that no one cared enough to do anything, until more than 100 stolen cars had piled up, struck a chord with us.

We hope it also resonates with Dr. Thuy Tran, 45, an optometrist who owns her own shop in Hollywood. Her story of immigrating from Vietnam and opening a small business is impressive. Just as laudable is her service in the National Guard, where she trains as a first responder to the Cascadian megaquake. In nearly every respect, she’s more qualified for this office than Donnerberg. We just ask that she takes his calls.

On the menu for Tran’s last meal: Lasagna. “As a vegan, it is harder to make lasagna. But vegan cheeses are amazing.”

Oregon House District 48

(Outer Southeast Portland, Damascus)

Hoa Nguyen

Democrat

Since 2013, the neighborhoods of deep Southeast Portland have been represented by Rep. Jeff Reardon, an attentive if plodding lawmaker. He’s retiring—and at any rate the new maps have bent the district eastward, following Powell Boulevard past Portland’s edge into Clackamas County.

The Democratic nominee is a clear front-runner in a district where Democrats enjoy a 5,000-voter registration advantage. That’s Hoa Nguyen, 38, a second-generation Vietnamese American who for more than a decade has worked for Portland Public Schools as an attendance coach. In her efforts to keep kids in school, she has studied the factors contributing to chronic absenteeism: housing insecurity, mental health and school climate. She’s served on the David Douglas School District Board since 2021 and now seeks to represent House District 48, which includes portions of East Portland and Damascus.

We were disappointed by Nguyen’s inability to tell us one way in which she is independent from the Democratic Party. That’s a concern as we look for legislators who can reach across the aisle for solutions.

Nguyen’s opponent, John Masterman, is a 52-year-old Republican car mechanic who’s running on a platform of eliminating taxes. He couldn’t tell us one state program he would work to eliminate if elected. That, coupled with his pro-life beliefs, doubts about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, and lack of any civic involvement, leads us to endorse Nguyen.

We hope her passion for equity in schools—and her experience in understanding that a child’s absenteeism is a mirror of a city’s failures—will add a strong advocate’s voice to the Legislature. Vote for Nguyen.

On the menu for Nguyen’s last meal: Pho.

Oregon House District 49

(Troutdale, Fairview, parts of Gresham)

Zach Hudson

Democrat

Old-timers will remember this East County district was the home base of state Rep. Karen Minnis (R-Wood Village), the last Republican House speaker before Democrats took control in 2006.

Today, Democrats hold about a 13-point advantage in a district spanning much of East County, which means incumbent Zach Hudson, 43, is likely to win his second term easily. A longtime public schoolteacher who’s now subbing so he can spend more time on legislative duties, Hudson passed a bill in his first term that brought tax relief to owners of floating homes. He’s a cerebral policy wonk who serves as vice chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee. He crossed the aisle in 2021 to vote with Republicans on a wildfire preparedness bill.

His GOP opponent, Randy Lauer, 42, a municipal utility worker, gym owner and mayor of Troutdale, is Hudson’s former colleague on the Troutdale City Council. He’s a pro-choice Republican and thoughtful candidate who’d get our endorsement in many other races. Hudson’s a solid incumbent, however, and there’s no reason to make a change.

On the menu for Hudson’s last meal: The waffle grilled-cheese sandwich at Sugarpine Drive-In in Troutdale.

Oregon House District 50

(Gresham)

Ricki Ruiz

Democrat

If you’re feeling jaded about Oregon politicians, consider the story of 28-year-old Ricki Ruiz. He was born in Gresham to immigrant parents. In 2012, he became the first member of his family to graduate high school. Five years later, he was elected to the school board. Now, he’s a state legislator representing his hometown.

Ruiz, it turns out, also has legislative chops. Last session, he sponsored the most controversial bill successfully passed into law. It will compensate farm laborers for overtime work, a proposal that has frustrated small farmers and infuriated the Republican Party. It is also fundamental fair play—the same overtime pay expected by firefighters and Burger King workers alike—and it’s a remarkably substantial achievement for a rookie lawmaker.

We didn’t get a chance to speak with his opponent, Amelia Salvador, this cycle. But she sat down for an interview in 2020. We didn’t endorse her then—she said her motivation to run was the state’s ban on plastic straws—and she’s given us no reason to change our minds now. Pick Ruiz.

On the menu for Ruiz’s last meal: Pupusas.

Oregon House District 51

(Canby, Estacada, Sandy)

Walt Trandum

Democrat

We’re endorsing Trandum for one reason: He’s not state Rep. James Hieb (R-Canby), the incumbent in this race.

Hieb, 37, a Marine Corps veteran who works for a day care provider his family owns, got appointed to this seat when his predecessor, Christine Drazan, resigned to run for governor. In August, Hieb got arrested by Clackamas County sheriff’s deputies after he refused to put out a cigarette at the county fairgrounds. Deputies said he was “extremely intoxicated” and handcuffed him after he told them he was carrying a licensed concealed handgun.

Although everybody is entitled to make mistakes, and we don’t pretend to know the extent of Hieb’s issues, public drunkenness while campaigning in a polo shirt emblazoned with one’s name front and back, and carrying a gun, is remarkable—as is the 23-minute bodycam video showing Hieb, who’s running on a law-and-order platform, insulting and disobeying deputies, calling one of them “motherfucker.” Nope.

Trandum, 70, is a semi-retired direct care worker who’s running on a single issue: getting money out of politics. He’s doing a good job, having raised less than $4,000 so far. That’s sufficient to get our endorsement over an incumbent who has disgraced the office.

On the menu for Trandum’s last meal: He declined to be interviewed.

Oregon House District 52

(Corbett, Hood River, The Dalles)

Darcy Long

Democrat

It’s another Columbia River Gorge district that has ping-ponged between Republicans and Democrats. Former Rep. Jeff Helfrich, a Republican and onetime Portland cop, held the seat briefly and has been on a quest since the 2018 blue wave to get it back. Conditions are favorable for him this cycle.

Yet we were slightly more impressed by his Democratic foil. Darcy Long, 51, is a well-regarded city councilor in The Dalles whose professional achievements include building and managing a 24-hour cold-weather homeless shelter. On the pivotal issue of the election—the sluggish start of Measure 110—Long held a firmer grasp on the details. We wouldn’t be troubled by Helfrich’s return to Salem, but we recommend Long.

On the menu for Long’s last meal: Bing cherries.

See WW’s General Election 2022 Endorsements Here!