"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.


John Nelsen

John Nelsen

The short list of Oregon House seats sought after for ’08 by Democrats includes almost as a matter of course the seat in District 49, which sits on the northeast edge of the Portland metro area – Fairview, Gresham, Wood Village.

There are good reasons. It’s part of the Portland metro area, after all. While more Republican than most of the Portland area, it votes for some Democrats, including its current state senator. It has been the home district to Representative Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, but in 2006, while she was House speaker, she had a close call even while spending and organizing very hard; and a somewhat close call two years before that. And Minnis has had some reservoirs of personal popularity. This has the look of a district that could switch sides next year.

Responsibility for making sure it doesn’t apparently will fall to John Nelsen, chair of the school board in the Reynolds School District (at Fairview), and a program director at Mount Hood Community College. (Running for re-election this May, Nelsen was unopposed in the district.) His announcement press release was home-based, focusing on schools and crime in east Multnomah; not a bad approach.

First impression is that he’s a strong candidate. Two Democrats – Troutdale City Councilor Barbara Kyle first, then law student and former county commission staffer Nick Kahl – already have gotten in, an indication of the high interest Democrats have here. District 49 featured as among the hottest races of each of the last two cycles in Oregon, and the announcements so far suggest it could make it three in a row.

COMMENTARY We were really struck with the mindset of two commenters on the Oregon Catalyst post launching Nelsen. (This is not, of course, something Nelsen is in any way responsible for.) The first commenter said, “East county, especially Rockwood needs to start rounding up the illegals and sending them home. I think everyone would be amazed at the drop in crime that would occur!” The second said in reply, “I am shocked that a hispanic man is not running for this posistion in little mexico, I mean hillsburito, I mean rockwierd, I mean gresham.”

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  1. jnelsen40 said:

    I appreciate the generally objective announcement of my candidacy. Thank you! I want to make sure that your readers know that I do not share the “mindset” of the “commentators” you referenced in your piece. In fact, as a Rockwood resident, I embrace all of my neighbors in all aspects of my public life. As a school board member, I have worked to ensure that our district provides the resources needed to serve our Hispanic (and other ethnic groups) students and families. Additionally, I am a regular attendee at the East County Latino Providers Network meetings and (on a more personal note) have benefited greatly from my interaction with Hispanic families/individuals in my community.

    While we do have some very difficult issues within our community, I hope that your decision to mention my name in the same statement with these “commentators” is not seen within my community as MY endorsement (in any way) of those positions.

    Sincerely, John Nelsen, Candidate for House Seat: District 49

    November 30, 2007
  2. Thanks – and just to doubly clarify, we aren’t trying to tie those commenters to Nelsen; pretty clearly, they don’t speak for him. They were included as an indicator of what’s prompting outbursts and political emotion in some parts of the electorate, including District 49. That’ll be something all the candidates will have to cope with.

    November 30, 2007

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