When my friend Brent Barton told me that he was running for State House District 51 against Republican Linda Flores, I have to admit I wasn't sure what to think. Brent is a smart, gregarious young attorney who worked on Governor Kulongoski's reelection campaign and is a board member of the Oregon Bus Project.
However, at first blush, beating three-term incumbent Linda Flores seemed like a nearly impossible task.
A closer look at House District 51, which serves Clackamas, Estacada, Damascus, Boring, Oregon City and a portion of Multnomah County, has me convinced that Brent is on to something. The district has only a three percent Republican voter registration edge: 39% Republican, 36% Democrat, and 21.5% non-affiliated. Brent started knocking on doors in the district a full year before this November's election and he hasn't missed a weekend canvass yet. This aggressive grassroots campaigning will go a long way to narrowing the slim voter registration advantage maintained by Republicans in the district.
More important than party affiliation, it appears that Republican Deputy Minority Whip Flores is falling out of step with her district on the issues. Over the last decade Oregon’s suburban districts have become more progressive, especially on issues such as choice, health care, and environmental protection. House District 51 is no different. In November, the people of the district voted 60% in favor of land use protection Ballot Measure 49, an initiative that Flores was solidly against.
The Oregon League of Conservation Voters gave Flores a 35% rating for the 2007 session, lower than 49 other House members including 19 Republicans. For example, Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville), Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton), and Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg) all scored higher (45%, 53%, and 55% respectively).
Flores voted against last session's HB 2203 to expand payday loan regulations (which passed 41-17) and she voted against Senate Bill 329, Senators Alan Bates and Ben Westlund's bill to design a universal health care plan for Oregonians. The Bates-Westlund bill passed 53-5 in the House.
Brent Barton has raised nearly $85,000 from individuals in less than three months so he can get out his name and highlight these issue differences during his campaign.
An energetic progressive attorney raising money like he's running for statewide office, knocking on doors every weekend, and a Republican opponent who is not representing her district on key issues: sounds like a recipe for a competitive race to me.
How can you support Brent Barton in this race?
• Create a buzz. Tell everyone you know about Brent’s campaign to unseat incumbent Linda Flores.
• Donate now. Give Brent a few dollars to help his campaign. You can donate at his website: VoteBrentBarton.com.
• Canvass with Brent. He walks every weekend, and his campaign is hosting a community canvass on March 1.
• Report on the issues. Use this thread to highlight where Linda Flores has taken anti-progressive positions that do not represent the views of her district and Oregon.