Writings and observations

In a 30-30 state House like Oregon’s, with an election coming up, every seat matters. A lot. So who’s sitting on the hot seats?

You can look at this from various directions, not all of them strictly statistical. Such matters as quality of candidates, gaffes and other negatives and the strength of a challenge matter. And, of year, money too. But party identification, in these very partisan times, matters a whole lot, and one useful place to start may be a look at what legislators are representing the most politically divided districts – or districts in which the other party has a registration advantage. (The registration numbers are those for February, posted by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.)

OR political field guide
Based on material from the upcoming Oregon Political Field Guide

In that last category, of legislators who have partisan minorities in their districts, there are six, all Republicans.

By this standard, the single most endangered Republican should be Katie Eyre Brewer of Hillsboro, in District 29. The district has a Democratic edge of 6.62%, and Brewer won with 53% in a relatively low-turnout year. She pulled a record Republican vote in this district, but Democrats exceeded her raw totals both in 2008 and 2004; and this year, like those, is a presidential. She’s at high risk.

The second most endangered Republican on this list would be Patrick Sheehan, of Clackamas, in House District 51. This district (well, its analogue before redistricting) was Republican a decade ago, and decisively into 2006, but clearly Democratic in the last two cycles – presently by a margin of 6.47%. Sheehan won his first term in 2010 with a respectable 54.57%, but his vote total was lower than the last Republican there, Linda Flores, had two years before that when she lost the seat. If turnout is up this year, Sheehan could be at big risk.

Brewer and Sheehan both represent districts with higher Democratic edge than the district held by the top-ranking House Democrat, Arnie Roblan of Coos Bay.

The other four Republicans in tough terrain are Shawn Lindsay of Hillsboro (District 30), Mark Johnson of Hood River (District 52), Jason Conger of Bend (District 54) and Julie Parrish of West Linn (District 37). All but Parrish unseated Democrats in the Republican tide year of 2010.

And it should be noted that the comparisons aren’t totally apples and apples, since the districts have been redistricted. But in most cases that doesn’t seem likely to make a big difference.

If that sounds like the makings of a Democratic target list, who should be the Democrats on the Republican short list?

There are no Democrats representing Oregon House districts with Republican registration leads. The closest would be District 9 – the Coos Bay district Roblan, the current House co-speaker, is leaving to run for the Senate. That district could have the makings of a serious contest.

After that, the going gets tougher. The Democrat in the next most marginal district is Deborah Boone (of Cannon Beach) in District 32 (Democratic edge: 8.8%), based in Clatsop County. She had a close race in 2010 (winning with 52.31%), but won easily earlier; and her new district should be more helpful to her than the old one was.

The next three districts in relatively small Democratic advantage are districts 40 (an open seat, with Dave Hunt‘s departure for a county race), 50 (Greg Matthews of Gresham) and 22 (Betty Komp of Woodburn). None look like easy catches.

In a race where such large results can turn on small conditions, the future of the Oregon House is far from settled. Based on party registration, Democrats have an early advantage.

What about other measure?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Idahoans of all persuasions, political as well as religious, should congratulate their former attorney general on his call to serve as a general authority and a member of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy. It is an honor long overdue.

EchoHawk, 63, was also the 1994 Democratic nominee for governor, but lost narrowly to former Lt. Governor Phil Batt. The Wilder State Senator won 52% to 48% giving EchoHawk the distinction of being the first Native American to come close to being elected governor.

EchoHawk, a Pawnee, is currently the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. To know Larry is to like him. He’s just one of those truly fine people all too rare nowadays.

Quiet, competent, hard-working, analytical and dedicated to supporting his wife and sons, he walks the talk of “faith, family and friends.” Educated at Brigham Young, he was a star defensive back on the Cougar football team and two sons were also star players, one at the Y, the other at ISU.

The sons obtained their own law degrees and set up law offices in Pocatello. The former U.S. Marine has spent time as an “of counsel” member of that firm and has represented the Fort Hall Sho-Bans in the past.

Given the prominent position Native Americans hold in the Mormon story (Saints believe today’s native Americans are descendents of the two “lost tribes” of Israel and that Christ appeared before them in the New World), it is surprising EchoHawk was not named sooner. There are some who expect he will eventually be named one of the 12 Apostles who serve as the “board” to the LDS president and his two first councilors.

As most know it is a gerontocracy that runs the LDS Church, but at 63 Larry is thought to be a “youngster.”

EchoHawk is only the second Native American named to the First Quorum of the Seventy and as such, carries the additional burden into this ecclesiastical office of having to redress the image left by the first Native American, Navajo George Lee, who served 14 years before being excommunicated for apostasy and conduct unbecoming a member of the church.

While Elder EchoHawk is fully deserving, the timing has to be noted for it is “no coincidence.”

It does not take a rocket scientist, let alone a political scientist, to figure out the authorities running the LDS Church are positively giddy with the prospect of one of their own, Mitt Romney, being a major party nominee for president.

If there is anyone among the political cognoscenti who think Church authorities would have liked seeing EchoHawk out on the campaign trail mobilizing the Native American vote against Romney as well as speaking out to the entire electorate, see me about some hot lottery tickets to last week’s jackpot.

So, EchoHawk gets an overdue “call,” and is out of D.C. and back to Orem where he and his wife have their home. This not so subtle move should invite additional questions regarding just how involved Church authorities are in Governor Romney’s campaign.

Again, under the no coincidences rule, does one not see the heavy national media buy last fall portraying all that is nice about being LDS with paving the way for the Romney campaign? And if the press ever gets full access to the contributors’ list of those giving to Romney’s Super PAC will anyone be surprised by the number of rich LDS millionaire?

It is also a given that in caucus states many wards and stakehouses served as unofficial Romney campaign clearing houses to ensure the faithful supportive of Mitt got to the caucuses. Methinks given how well organized the Romney campaign is that these kinds of details are givens.

For a faith that has been historically persecuted and has suffered the brunt of discrimination, one would think they would be especially vigilant about separation of Church and State. No, I’m not so naïve as to not know that American politics will always be intertwined to some degree with religion, values and morals. The disturbing trend is an acceleration of Church hierarchies, like the LDS authorities and the Catholic bishops, to step into and practice a particular brand of partisan politics.

The risk of such deep involvement is in fact what exactly happened to EchoHawk when he ran for governor. Holding a fund-raiser in Salt Lake and “working” the Mormon authorities for money, struck many members of the LDS faith, egged on by a super-critical Salt Lake Tribune, as improperly crossing the line. Some believe, coming just two weeks before the election with EchoHawk then leading Batt, that the matter cost EchoHawk the election.

Of course that was a mere governorship, not the presidency. Nor will I be so cynical as to suggest race, or ethnicity, or party affiliation had anything to do with how the authorities acted then.

CHRIS CARLSON is a writer and former press secretary now living at Medimont.

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