Image for Primary Election Heats Up while Campaign Finance Reform Flames Out

Moderate Democrats form a PAC to support moderates, campaign finance limits fail to advance, major industries challenge Governor Brown’s greenhouse gas emission powers and primary campaigns heat up, including a spendy ad campaign on behalf of a congressional candidate few Oregonians seem to know.

Pushing for the Middle
Led by former Senator Arnie Roblan from Coos Bay, six self-described Democratic moderates are organizing to boost legislative candidates who “crave compromise” rather than political division.

Oregonians Are Ready, which filed paperwork with the Secretary of State last week, is the brainchild of former Rep. Brian Clem, who represented a Salem House district until resigning his seat last year, claiming he was disgusted with the behavior of the Democratic majority. Putting “my money where my mouth is”, Clem loaned the new PAC $500,000 to contribute to moderate Democratic candidates.

“Lately I felt like my party has been willing to take a 31-29 victory and be thrilled at getting 100 percent of what they want,” Clem said in an interview, “as opposed to getting 80 percent of what they want and not having other people pissed off.”

Roblan said Democratic lawmakers representing Portland and other urban areas dismiss pro-business arguments and ignore concerns in rural areas. “That is the problem with supermajorities, because they just don’t need you,” Roblan said. “We want to make sure that the Democratic Party really represents all the working people in Oregon. It is a deep feeling among us that there are people whose voices haven’t been heard.”

In addition to Roblan and Clem, the other moderates joining the effort include former Reps. Jeff Barker, Caddy McKeown, Betty Komp and Deborah Boone.

This isn’t the first time moderates have complained about their treatment by fellow Democrats. Former Rep. Tom Brian, who switched from Republican to Democrat while serving in the House for 10 years, said he often felt unwanted in the House Democratic Caucus because of his business background.

Political observers speculate the 19-candidate Republican gubernatorial primary may produce a victor with a fraction of the GOP vote and a depleted campaign war chest, an awkward launchpad for a general election bid.

Coastal Democrats have a long history of banding together to achieve a meaningful voice. Senator Jason Boe of Coos Bay served four sessions as Senate President from 1973 to 1980. In the 1973 legislative session, the posts of Senate Majority Leader and co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee were held by another coastal lawmaker. Senator Bill Bradbury, also from the South Coast, served as Senator Majority Leader in 1986 and Senate President in 1993. Roblan is the last coastal legislator to hold a leadership position when he served as co-Speaker of the House in 2011 and 2012 when there was 30-30 Democratic and Republican split.

The new PAC is supporting Rep. Brad Witt, who is giving up his North Coast House seat to run against two other Democrats for a House seat in Salem, Rep. Ken Helm who is seeking re-election to his Beaverton House seat and Daniel Nguyen, a Lake Oswego city councilman and restauranteur, running for an open House seat.

Campaign Finance Limits

The Oregon Supreme Court unanimously upheld the decision of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan to disqualify three ballot measures for failing to include the entire text of laws they would alter.

Backers of the initiatives asked the Court to expedite a hearing and reverse Fagan’s decision. The Court decision said, “This is not a case in which exceptional circumstances persuade us that the issue that relators raise is so novel and significant, and that immediate resolution is so imperative, that we should exercise our discretionary mandamus jurisdiction on an expedited basis.” Justices said initiative petitioners should have started their work earlier to leave time to correct any deficiencies.

After the ruling, Fagan said, “I am one of the millions of Oregonians eager to see speedy, meaningful progress on campaign finance reform. Whether by legislators or through the public initiative process, making law takes time, and the Constitution sets the rule of law. There are no shortcuts.”

Climate Rule Authority
Business interests filed a petition with the Oregon Court of Appeals seeking judicial review of the Department of Environmental Quality’s recently approved rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, claiming Governor Brown lacks the authority to enact such a sweeping measure.

Brown invoked her executive powers after legislative Republicans walked out of the 2020 legislative session to prevent a vote on a cap-and-trade environmental bill. The DEQ rule, which went into effect January 1, would impose caps on carbon emissions on vehicles and heavy industry.

The appeal was filed by Oregon Business & Industry, Space Age Fuel, Northwest Pulp & Paper Association and Oregon Association of Nurseries. NW Natural, Avista and Cascade Natural Gas filed a similar petition. The petitions claim Oregon environmental statutes don’t grant additional executive powers to the governor.

Primary Campaigns Heat Up

Leading Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Tobias Read and Tina Kotek shared a stage in a debate hosted by the Oregon AFL-CIO.

Leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates Tina Kotek and Tobias Read appeared on the same stage last week at a debate sponsored by the Oregon AFL-CIO. Both espoused pro-union positions, touted their respective accomplishments and defended their records. Kotek has already rounded up many individual union endorsements.

Kotek took some flak at the debate for supporting Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) cuts in return for securing enough votes in the Senate during the 2019 session to pass the Student Success Act, financed by a new commercial activities tax. Kotek said she made the political bargain as House Speaker to win the vote of then Senate Betsy Johnson, who is running for governor this year as a non-affiliated candidate. Johnson has said this is the vote she most regrets casting.

Political observers speculate the 19-candidate Republican gubernatorial primary, with several hopefuls with voter name familiarity, may produce a victor with a fraction of the GOP vote and a depleted campaign war chest, an awkward launchpad for a party with fewer registered voters than Democrats and the combination of minor party and non-affiliated voters. 

A union-sponsored virtual debate for Fourth Congressional District candidates for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring Congressman Peter DeFazio devolved into a bash session against Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, whom DeFazio and several unions have endorsed. The winner of the Democratic primary will face Alex Skarlatos who seriously challenged DeFazio in 2020. Redistricting has made the Fourth District lean more Democratic.

Carrick Flynn
Political ads are beginning to run, led by a super PAC touting the candidacy of Carrick Flynn for the Democratic nomination in the new Sixth Congressional District. If you are wondering who Flynn is, you aren’t alone.

The campaign for Sixth District congressional candidate Carrick Flynn has raised eyebrows because of support from a super PAC formed by a billionaire cryptocurrency entrepreneur and because it isn’t clear how long he has lived in Oregon after working at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Flynn’s website says he grew up in Vernonia in a low-income household and his family became homeless after a flood. Through a Ford Foundation scholarship, he attended the University of Oregon and then Yale Law School. He was married in his brother’s backyard in Tualatin. The site says he became interested in technology, went to Oxford University and later worked in a faculty position at Georgetown University in Washington, DC where he advised the US government.

Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute lists Flynn as a research affiliate focusing on Artificial Intelligence strategy, policy and implementation. It added that Flynn has lived and worked in public interest organizations in the United States, Kenya, Liberia, Timor-Leste, India, Malaysia, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom.

The extensive $1.3 million ad campaign supporting Flynn is financed by Protect Our Future, a super PAC formed by Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and CEO of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange. According to Wikipedia, he is ranked 32nd on the 2021 Forbes 400 list with a net worth of more than $22 billion. Bankman-Fried is a Democrat with a history of philanthropy and was the second largest donor to Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign behind Michael Bloomberg.

Congressional candidacy requirements differ greatly from state office requirements. Candidates must be at least 25 years old, be a US citizen for at least seven years and “be an inhabitant of the state in which he shall be chosen”, according to Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution. There is no requirement to live in the congressional district he or she represents. One source says more than 20 House members don’t live in their congressional districts. Mark Meadows, former chief of staff for President Trump, is being investigated by federal authorities for declaring his residency in a North Carolina mobile home in which he never lived while serving in Congress.

Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was disqualified as a Democratic candidate for governor because he failed to demonstrate he met the state constitution’s three-year residency requirement. Records showed Kristof was registered to vote and voted in New York in 2020.