Having completed and published interviews with the three most competitive Democrast vying for the First Congressional District, I find myself not only a bit overwhelmed by the project--but grateful for the opportunity each campaign afforded me to spend their precious candidate time. Thank you to each of them.
I went into this project with my heart already leaning heavily toward one of the candidates: Brad Avakian. Each of the campaigns knew this prior to the candidate interviews. I felt it was only fair and honest to let them know where I stood. But I endeavored to conduct an informative interview of each of the candidates and feel confident that by most measures, this endeavor was a success. I worked very hard to leave my candidate biases aside and give readers at Blue Oregon each candidate's own personal perspective, ideas and priorities.
With that now complete, I feel it appropriate to share my own thoughts and perspective on this race.
First, I feel very confident that any of the three will be vastly superior to David Wu. Not only because I believe each of them can manage to conduct themselves ethically and honestly, but each of them appears to me to be a superior legislator compared to Wu--more capable of actually substantively representing the First Congressional District. I have long been of the opinion that Wu was not up to the job, and haven't cast a vote for him for him since 2004. I've been gritting my teeth, leaving that part of my ballot blank. I didn't find Wu or any of his opponents to be people I wanted representing me in the US House. I'm very pleased that this cycle, that has changed dramatically.
That said, these interviews have not only served to cement my heart with Brad Avakian, he's won my head over as well. I will be actively supporting him in this race both with my volunteer time and my money.
I've been represented in both the Oregon House and Senate by Avakian and by Suzanne Bonamici. Bonamici has done a good job and I appreciate her work. However, Avakian is, in my view, a vastly more effective progressive legislator.
Avakian's list of policy accomplishments as a legislator are much weightier and more ambitious than the other two. Well before he decided to run for Congress--I was impressed with his work as Labor Commissioner, as many others have been. Avakian has been a bulldog on civil rights issues--which makes me admire him even more. And while I don't agree with him on every policy position (let's face it--those of us who oppose the CRC aren't going to get what we want right now from any of these candidates), he's been the most open and candid with me--which I deeply appreciate. He's also worked very hard to recruit and nurture other progressive candidates and busted his tail to try and get them into office (with much success). I suspect that's why Emerge Oregon asked him to be a
founding advisory board member.
From a more global perspective, I'm also very concerned about the lack of scrutiny of this race by the Oregon media. Especially in regard to Bonamici's connections to David Wu's previous campaigns--and
her husband's aggressive work as Wu's attorney ardent support for him, well after much of the rest of Washington County was articulating strong doubts about Wu's behavior and ability to represent the District.. Bonamici's family had a livelihood for a number of years that was, to some degree or another, connected to Wu's issues. While I have my doubts that there was any nefarious or untoward activity--I'm alarmed that this story hasn't been fully vetted. In my view, it leaves her vulnerable in the General Election for the Republicans to take the story and run--spinning it in whatever direction suits them best.
A few years ago I gave my heart and my head to another candidate running in a tough primary: Jeff Merkley. I knew deep in my core that Jeff was going to be a wonderful US Senator for Oregon. As many readers know, I worked in a paid position for that campaign--but I didn't do so lightly. I gave up precious time with the people that I love to spend 80 hours a week in that job. I sure as hell didn't do it for the money--there's a reason that people my age aren't generally campaign staff. They pay what they can, but its not a king's ransom by any stretch. I simply knew he was the right person for that job and I knew that I had to do what I could to help get him there. In the years since Senator Merkley's victory, I have been reaffirmed in my beliefs about him many times over.
I'm not in a paid position with the Avakian campaign. Nor do I expect to be, should he win the primary. But I feel in my core--just as I did with Merkley--that this is the right person for this job. The constituents of the First Congressional District have not been represented appropriately for many years. Should Bonamici or Witt win the primary, I will cheerfully vote for them knowing that they will do a fine job. But in my view, the District deserves to be represented by the most effective progressive legislator--and that person is Brad Avakian.