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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Voter-Owned Democracy, part 3 (Portland legislative candidate forums absent from the public discussion)

With three key Portland-area legislative contested primaries looming on the May 20 ballot, opportunities for the candidates to appear in public forums and debates have been strangely absent.

This week alone, both Elders in Action and the Oregon League of Minority Voters will hold candidate forums, and neither will include legislative races.

It is easy to explain the lack of interest regarding the many uncontested legislative races, as those “contests” were decided back at the filing deadline in March.

But House District 42, House District 45 and Senate District 23 feature well-qualified contenders for these three open seats, and how all three races have slipped below the radar is hard to understand.

The several candidates offer competing views on the state’s policies and priorities, and yet no opportunity has emerged for a public discussion.

The Urban League and its partners will be the first to offer a platform featuring the race to succeed Senator Avel Gordly in Senate District 23, on May 2 at Highland Christian Center, an event that will also feature the contest for Oregon Attorney General.

It is the lone scheduled event for this key race that will determine the policy direction for Oregon’s underserved populations for years to come.

Recently, the Oregonian ran an editorial stating that the most important races on the May 20 ballot might be the legislative contests, and they are correct.

Each of these races are worth far more than the superficial look they have received to date, simple measures of money raised, special-interest and insider endorsements gained, lawn signs staked and paper promises printed.

Behind the scenes, political payback, petty jealousies and kneecapping are in full Spring bloom, the role of endorsement nepotism lies unexamined.

Who will take the intitiative and put these vital contests on the front burner where they belong?

I leave the question open, as open as the opportunity to bring real change to the Oregon legislature, but the door is closing fast.

Time is short, and the time is yours.

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