The Democratic primary challenge in HD 16

T.A. Barnhart

I'm not sure a day goes by when I don't read an article, op-ed, or letter to the editor bemoaning the state of democracy.  Across the country, Americans equate their government to invaders from Mars.  Many feel that they have no say in how their lives are governed, that there is no hope for anything better, and so they give up and opt out.

As coordinator of Linn-Benton for Democracy, the local Deaniac organization in the Heart of the Valley (Cor-vallis: heart - valley; there's your local geography lesson of the day), I can vouch that we deanistas gots no truck with that line of thinking.  We paid attention to Howard Dean's message two years ago — "You have the power!  Take back your country!" — and we got involved and stayed involved.  Had the rest of Oregon, and the country, followed our shining example, John Kerry would be president, gays and lesbians could legally marry, and Karen Minnis would instead be talking about just how many fries customers would get in "her house."

One of the key themes in Dean's message, one that rings clearly through everything he says, is personal responsibility.  He speaks directly to individuals, like a doctor to his patient.  To each voter, one by one, he says: "You can make a difference.  You!  Do something to make that difference."  Here in Benton County we are doing that.  We made sure we kept our county commissioners in office when they took a courageous stand for marriage equality.  We are personally involved in our children's classrooms, we are running for all the "little" offices, we are showing up to make a difference.

Showing up.  Another thing Dean likes to say, not an original statement but on the mark: "Showing up is half the battle."  That's why he was in Texas Monday, and why he's visiting all the red states, repeatedly.  He knows you have to be there to make a difference.  In the real world, you can't phone it in.  You can't be a part-time patriot.

Which brings me to House District 16.  We have a problem here, a legislator who may well have set a two-session record for most unexcused absences.  Our incumbent Democrat has not shown up for us in Salem, and what was clear to many of us last year when we voted for her opponent in the primary has become unmistakeable to even more people this year:  We have to do better than this.  We need a state representative we can count on every day of the session, and for the period between sessions.  The grassroots may be the heart of a democracy, but leaders are its soul.  Leaders who demonstrate excellence provide a voice for the many who support them.  Leaders have the ability to translate mass desires into tangible actions.  Leaders take the kinds of singular actions that are available only to them because of their unique position in our systems.  The grassroots provides the energy; the leader provides the opportunity.

Not all leaders, of course, have to be elected to office, but when we do elect someone to an office, we expect that person to be a leader.  Not just an election winner, a leader.  House District 16 has the opportunity to elect a true leader next year, someone who does not need the false legitimization of an election but a person who has been demonstrating for years that she is one of those rare citizens, a born leader.  In deciding to challenge once again for the Democratic nomination for HD16, Sara Gelser is taking her proven record to the next level and providing us with a chance to have a representative in Salem we can count upon -- a leader who knows what she is doing.

(Full disclosure: I'm doing her website,, as I did last year.)

Sara is a relentless personification of all Howard Dean emphasizes.  She shows up and works as hard as she can to help us all take back that which rightfully belongs to us: our government.  After the disappointment of losing the primary last year, she became an integral part of the Benton County Democrats' campaign.  She took on the crazymaking task of organizing the different phone banks.  The grace she showed in defeat demonstrated to many skeptics that her campaign to unseat an incumbent had been based in a genuine belief that she could do a better job.  Her devotion to helping Democrats win last fall proved to many doubters that she was not oriented on personal aggrandizement but aimed at the same "take back our country" beliefs that fueled the activity of hundreds of new volunteers in Benton County.

Sara Gelser is a tested candidate, winning re-election to the school board, beating the odds to come so close in the 2005 primary, and doing the hard work of walking the streets, evening after evening, tireless in pursuit of what she believes to be the right thing.  She is smart, and that never hurts; unlike a certain national leader, she speaks in full sentences, on virtually any matter of policy, extemporizing intelligently, enthusiastically, and convincingly.  If someone approaches her from a point of opposition, her first and natural inclination is to sit down for a cup of coffee and have a conversation -- and to spend much of that time listening.  But perhaps most importantly, given the record of the past two years, Sara does the one thing we seem to need more than ever, the one thing that is required for intelligence, passion, and talent to be of any use at all:

She shows up.

  • (Show?)

    So that everyone else doesn't have to run on over to the (horrible) state legislature website... the Democratic incumbent is Kelley Wirth.

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    Kari-- horrible? I don't think that even begins to describe it. That site needs some major help.

    Todd-- best of luck. We have to make sure that the D's representing us are doing their job as well. A big reason I am not supporting Gov K in the primary.

  • gossipmonger (unverified)

    At the risk of being inappropriate, isn't there some sort of back story about Kelley sleeping with Sara's husband? Or the other way around? Why doesn't Sara just take out Frank Morse instead?

  • Eric Berg (unverified)

    "At the risk of being inappropriate..."

    'Inappropriate' is a kind word.

    Kari, This is why I wish Blue Oregon didn't allow anonymous posts. They may be appropriate elsewhere. Not here.

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    I ain't got a dog in this fight, but TA's onto something with this strong primary thing. One sure way to get the attention of "The Powers That Be" in the state is to win the primary with an insurgent.

    Here in HD52, a lot of us would like to see a primary just to find out who's willing to do the hard work, before we commit ourselves to trying to win against a Republican in the general election....

  • BoHoBerg (unverified)

    I don't take any stock in gossip but I gave Kelley the benefit of the doubt last election because she was getting divorced in the middle of session and that takes a toll. However, I was disappointed that she didn't step up this year and turn it around. I don't think she wants to be there. I hope she doesn't run.

    I've never met Sara but I didn't like party regulars trying to take out a Dem with a great voting record (When she was there) based on personal stuff. So I voted aganist her.

    Oh by the way I like being anonymous. So kiss my ass.

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    your final lines pretty much delegitimize everything else you wrote; however, the point does need to be addressed:

    yes, you don't know sara, otherwise you'd know she did not run last year based on "personal stuff". she ran because she believed she was a better candidate and would make a better state representative. her entire focus was, and remains, on the issues. unfortunately, kelley has made her attendance record one of those issues -- again. sara's campaign will not spend much time on that this time. this campaign will be about sara and her district, the people and the issues affecting benton county and oregon

    anonymous does have the advantage, of course, of allowing people to say any chickenshit thing they like and not having to take responsibility for it. is that the part you like?

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    If she isn't there for votes, that's a problem.

    The fact that it continued again this session just proves that it wasn't just because of "personal stuff" that another Dem ran against her last time. She wasn't there last session and she wasn't there this session. A great voting record means very little if you aren't there often. By missing out on votes, you really don't know how she would have voted on that issue. She can say all she wants that she would have voted one way or another, but actually voting that way is a whole 'nother story.

    I get tired of people treating candidates badly just because they run against an incumbent from their own party in the primary. Why do we even have a primary when there's an incumbent if we want them to have a free pass to the general? It's because we realize that the incumbent is not always the best candidate and sometimes they need to be replaced at the primary before they are beat in the general.

    We have the same problem with Gov K right now. With approval ratings as low as his, the chances of him being re-elected are very slim. Would you rather choose a better candidate in the primary or let him get beat in the general?

    The same applies to candidates such as this one.

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    You said: Why doesn't Sara just take out Frank Morse instead?

    Candidates typically run for the state house first. After serving time there, they move onto the senate. You don't see that many people elected directly to the senate. It happens sometimes, but more often than not they were in the state house first.

    People are willing to elect people with a small amount of experience to the state house (such as city council members or school board members). They are less willing to do the same for the state senate.

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    We have the same problem with Gov K right now. With approval ratings as low as his, the chances of him being re-elected are very slim.

    On the contrary, even though he's no favorite of mine, the unions are muttering about withholding support, and he's been missing on a lot of the important stuff, this guy is very smart and he's the incumbent.

    He's attended the requisite funerals, made a big fight over national guard retention, and with his support of the "gut and stuff" version of 1037, he's positioned to get big money from developers to replace some lost union money.

    Bear in mind that the public doesn't pay attention to most of the stuff that some of us find objectionable. Kulongiski's definitely got a big head start if he wants it again.

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    He may have gone to the funerals, but Oregonians aren't going to forget that Gov K travelled to Iraq with the Rs and approved of the war.

    Much of the big money will still go to the R who comes out of the primary. Kulongoski may have went their way on that issue, but he could still side with Dems on issues they hold dear. They know the Rs will almost always support them.

    If you talk to the average person, they're extremely unhappy with Kulongoski. They feel he didn't do enough to support education, public safety, or the Oregon Health Plan. The only time they hear about him on the news is in regards to the war. They feel he was a lame duck who did very little during his time as governor so far. While many can name accomplishments of past governors (not necessarily who did what, but some of their major accomplishments like the Oregon Health Plan or land use laws), none I've spoken with can name a single thing he's done. I've found they're often harder on him than people within the party.

  • Eric Berg (unverified)

    BoHoBerg: "Oh by the way I like being anonymous. So kiss my ass."

    The first thing I wrote before posting was. "'Inappropriate' is a kind word, asshole." I thought it inappropriate so I edited it. I was wrong. Whomever you are, kiss MY ass, asshole. My un-anonymous ass.

    I don't know enough about Kelly Wirth or Sara Gesler to make an informed opinion about whom I'd support if I lived in the district. I do believe this: the more people who run for public ofice the better. If someone believes he or she could do a better job and is willing to do what it takes to run, go for it. If some vote(s) by some incumbent pisses someone off enough to run against him or her, great. It's better to have to many choices than none.

    If someone who ran on a platform of progressive corporate, electoral and tax reform, workers rights and some sort of universal health care, I'd have a had time not voting for him or her, even if it if were against my legislators (Sen. Avel Gordly and Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, both of whom I respect) in a primary.

    Ron Wyden ran against an incumbent Democrat when he first ran for public office in 1980 and won. If someone did the same thing against him or any other incumbent (Democat or Republican), win or lose, it won't be the end of the world. Our democracy will be better off because of it.

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    Eric.... to your question about anonymous comments: It's simply not possible to disallow anonymous comments. Even if we insisted upon a registration scheme, it's certainly simple to create a fake name and post using that name.

    In addition, open and honest political communication often relies upon anonymity - and has since the dawn of the republic. See: Federalist Papers.

  • LT (unverified)

    First of all, why would anyone want to "take out" Frank Morse? He co-authored the civil unions bill and got lots of flak for it. As someone who wants voices of reason in BOTH parties (unless the nonpartisan effort is successful) I certainly wouldn't vote for a Democrat who was just running to "take out" Morse. We need "good guy" Republicans in office to drag that party towards the center.

    About this: He may have gone to the funerals, but Oregonians aren't going to forget that Gov K travelled to Iraq with the Rs and approved of the war.

    How can anyone know what all Oregonians believe? That sounds like what a favorite professor said about phrases like "the American people". He said if a public figure ever used that phrase, substitute "people like us" to get the true meaning of the sentence. Good advice--Oregonians sure disagree on many issues.

    As much as I have enjoyed Jenni's posted comments, nothing makes me angrier than a version of "He was wrong on the war", an annoying insult from the 1960s and 1970s. In what way did Ted K. "approve of the war"--by not being as outspoken as Howard Dean?

    Do you really believe that a former Marine wouldn't want to see the troops in combat and how they were doing? Perhaps you are unaware that when the Oregon Guard was sent to Central America in the Reagan years on a "training exercise" which was really more about foreign policy, a contingent of legislators from both parties went to Central America to observe, and some came back and made some pithy comments. Were they supporting that deployment by going there?

    It is possible to believe (as I do) that we were lied to about the Iraq war and that it is a mess. But I have known too many people who served in the military, incl. in combat, to accept the idea that all good people feel the same about any use of troops. I am in my late 50s and can remember people stupid enough to take their opposition to the Vietnam War out on returning troops. That was really stupid--what did it accomplish? We hosted a returning vet (college friend) for several days after he left Ft. Lewis and before he went home to S. California. Were we "supporting the Vietnam War" by doing that?

    Wise to be careful about use of language in situations like this. You might strike a nerve and alienate some potential allies.

    Some of us corresponded with friends who served in Vietnam. A friend of mine worked for Sen. Wayne Morse. Would the war have ended sooner if we'd confined our efforts to rallies and other ways to speak out on the war? The wounds of that war are still raw, as noted by young people who couldn't understand why some people were so proud of Kerry being in VVAW and so angry at Bush for being in the National Guard and never going into combat. After all, that happened before they were born. Wars incite strong feelings, and careful use of words is always wise.

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    kari, the federalist papers aren't a great example. those weren't anonymous; the authors were very well known. it really wasn't a big secret back then who was responsible for them. there was no need for anonymity when writing these; no danger for being arrested. the use of pen names was a style, an accepted means of ensuring readers knew what party or position the author represented.

    i find that in forums & comments, anonymous entries tend to be used more by cowards and wimps for being "outrageous" or for name-calling. we're not talking about the possiblity of the govt finding contributors to blueoregon and sending them to the gulags. if we lived in haiti or iran or egypt or alabama, i might worry more about that. here in oregon, i don't think there are many good reasons for hiding. standing up for your words and beliefs is one of the rare privileges we enjoy in this country; we should celebrate that freedom by speaking honestly and in our own names.

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    My very first political work was for such an Oregon House primary campaign in my district, where a person who had run to unseat the incumbent D the previous term was now running again for the opening created by term limits.

    This was SW Portland, where the Democratic primary (in those days) practically WAS the entire race. We had a 2:1 registration advantage.

    Our candidate got punished for 'bucking the establishment' the last race, in this race. He filed first, and walked the entire district almost three times over. He raised an unobscene but still sufficient amount of money. He had the most ground troops, the best campaign managers and strategists, and could even send us out to help others, for example, getting on the ballot a bill (from the State Senator for our district) to close the gun show loophole on waiting periods.

    The Portland D establishment found 3 other candidates who ran all the way to the primary, all filing after, and including an ex-Republican who was, for a time, President/CEO of the company I worked for. One other candidate's own numbers were telling him he would lose badly, and he eventually did, yet he wouldn't drop out. Endorsements were given early, and then withdrawn from our candidate because of outside pressures.

    Despite all this, our candidate lost by only 19 votes out of approximately 15-20 thousand, and that result held up in the recount. The winner filed last, raised much more money, got Patty Wentz's endorsement back when it meant something, and had the establishment behind her.

    I admire your effort, Todd, and your candidate. And believe me, if anyone on this board understands the need to replace a lazy rep, even from our own Party, it's me.

    But it's an uphill battle. The incumbent's going to have a tremendous advantage in name ID, and there will be people who work their asses off to make sure Sara Gelser never gets out of the gate, because she had the audacity to assert at one time that she could do better for your District.

    So, my advice (to you and Sara) would be: work harder, better, earlier. And don't be afraid to use a little intimidation, in case your primary gets as crowded as ours did. You want a showdown, one on one, not two or three other niche candidates chipping away at your margin.

    I still believe our candidate would have done a better job than is being done out of that seat, even at present. But I'm glad to know that there are some folks like Todd who still want to do the right thing in Oregon.

  • Lefty Fitzpatrick (unverified)

    So getting back to the topic at hand, there are a number of issues with the incumbent in HD 16. The problem is, knowing a bit of the back story there, I'm not sure if it's quite right what's happening here. I mean Kelly Worthless is an awful legislator, even if she votes right. She's terrible. She seldom shows up for meetings, is ALWAYS late to the House floor sessions, sometimes not even showing up at all. The House stopped calling her absent towards the end and just marked her such without even calling out for her vote.

    When she debates, she often rambles and makes no sense, changing directions frequently without signaling. She even missed voting on the final K-12 budget. C'mon Kelly, letting the House vote on school funding and not even being there to register the voice of your constituents? I agree with a previous post, it's almost as if she doesn't want to be there. And by the way, is she living in her legislative office? That's a whole other story...

    All that said, what happened to her in Benton County is wrong. She went through a nasty public divorce, where her former in-laws said evil things about her and there's some story about her ex-husband having an affair with some Benton County powerbroker who has evidently been working against Kelley since the last campaign.

    Basically, I feel sorry for Kelley Wirth. Something's going on in her life that is seriously affecting her on a personal level and it's carrying over to her service in the Legislature. Really, I think that Kelley should take a break for her own personal emotional well-being and sort some things out. But then she'd have to get a real job.

    I don't live in HD 16, but I think that this Sara Gesler business is cheeky. If she wants to run against her, fine, but run because she wants to do a good job for the people of HD 16, not because she hates KW.

    I think Wirth needs to decide what she wants to do, and then do it. Right now, she's not helping anybody, least of all herself.

  • Sara Gelser (unverified)

    It is true that I'm running for the nomination to House District 16. Currently, I am the only candidate to publicly and officially announce an intention to run. I'm not running because I want to unseat someone. I am running because I want to represent the people of Benton County-- regardless of whether or not the incumbent chooses to seek reelection. This will be a positive, energetic campaign. I hope that, regardless of who files, this race becomes a lively discussion of ideas and issues.

    In this campaign, I will be talking about a positive vision for Oregon's future that includes progressive tax reform, quality schools (PK-higher ed), a prosperous economic climate, improved protections to children in our child welfare system, access to quality healthcare, protecting the integrity of our environment, and standing up for the civil rights of all Oregonians.

    I also want to engage the people of Corvallis and Philomath in a conversation about what we can do to take some of our great progressive energy and share it with other parts of Benton County and the mid-Valley. Our community is bubbling with enthusiastic volunteers who are capable of making contributions of time and money to Democratic campaigns. We need to harness that energy and share it outside our community so that we can do our part to take back the House.

    I am not running because of any back stories, or because of my personal feelings about anyone. The work is too important for that. I wouldn't put my husband and four children through the craziness of a campaign for any reason but to do a good job for this District. This is my chosen community. My husband and I chose Benton County to raise our children, and we plan to retire here. I know that our future, and my children's future, depends upon a solid investment in our core services and the development of sound, progressive public policy. As a legislator, I can put my skills, experience and passion to work to help make positive change for Oregonians.

    The job ahead of me is to talk with voters about my vision, and make it clear why I am running. I learned a lot in my last campaign, and I know that my biggest failing was communicating clearly about why I wanted to serve them. This campaign will not be about the incumbent legislator--- it will be about Benton County and the future of Oregon. It is my hope that I can communicate well enough to earn the support of people like BoHoBerg and others like him/her. I must demonstrate what I can offer to this community because I know that support isn't just given-- it must be earned and never taken for granted.

    Ultimately, when I am elected, I want to know it is because voters in my community trusted me to represent them effectively and with integrity. I want to be elected because of who I am, not because of who I'm not.

    This is one of the reasons I am filing by petition rather than by filing fee. I don't want to put my name on the ballot if voters do not want to see it there again. The fact that I've collected several hundred signatures and broad based grassroots endorsements in the past two weeks demonstrates positive, widespread energy and enthusiasm for this campaign.

    I hope that people with concerns and ideas will contact me, anonymously or otherwise. I will be candid with you about my positions on issues and my reasons for running. I want to hear what you are thinking about, and what your vision for the future is. I want to listen to what you have to say whether or not I ultimately win your support.

    Good campaigns generate quality conversations about important issues and new ideas-- even when people don't agree. I want to lead that type of campaign.

    You can email me privately at [email protected] . My contact telephone number is on my webpage (up but still under construction), and you can call me there and have a conversation on the phone, or set up a time for coffee. I hope to hear from some of you!

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    If I could get one single message across here, it's that Sara is running because she believes she would be a great representative in Salem. She's done an excellent job on the school board, she's demonstrated her skill and dedication with years of volunteer activism and leadership, and she is simply one of the finest people I have ever met. It's too bad that Kelley's solid political beliefs have not translated into acceptable service in the Legislture. I truly hope she sees the writing on the wall and steps aside. But if she does run, you'll hardly notice it from our campaign because we're going to be talking about Sara, not the incumbent.

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    To answer your question, Kulongoski came out in support of the war. That's a big reason why he was able to go on the trip to Iraq with the Rs. Going in itself was not a support of the war, nor did I say that it was. He was chosen as a Democratic governor who supported the war. Had he been against the war, he would not have been invited on that trip.

    I'm sure he would have made the trip seperately had he not been invited.

    He has since questioned Bush's handling of the war, which earned points with some.

    The reason I brought that up is that Oregon has been heavily anti-Iraq War. Polling I've heard about give him extremely low numbers because of this. When speaking with the people most likely to vote in the governor's race, many people brought up his support of the Iraq war as a reason they're unhappy with them.

    And please don't try to make it seem like I am anti-troops or something. Both of my uncles, my grandfather, and my husband all served. My husband served in the Army during the Gulf War, although he was never stationed in the Middle East. He had other duties related to the war, he just wasn't stationed there. My husband is originally from Vietnam and lived there during the war. He carries numerous scars from being hit by debris from explosions.

    This isn't about being anti-troops. This is about a voting population that is anti-Iraq War and a governor who supported it.

  • Penny York (unverified)

    Yesterday I retired as the Director of LBCC Benton Center. Today I begin my new full-time work as candidate for District 16 of the Oregon House of Representatives.

    Deciding to run has been a journey, talking with friends and leaders throughout our District. I have appreciated the candid advice and the strong encouragement I have received.

    I have a record of accomplishment, a record of advocacy, and a record of collaboration. My proudest achievements have been leading the process to develop the Benton Center into the comprehensive branch campus that it is now and greatly expanding the educational opportunities for adults in our county. But my other community leadership activities such as serving as Chair of the Benton County Fair Board, President of Leadership Corvallis, and Chair of the Board of CASA, Voices for Children have also impacted our District.

    This proven background prepares me to be a strong legislator to represent Corvallis and Philomath. I will fight to be sure that children are safe in Oregon, to ensure that all Oregonians have access to an affordable, quality education, and to help develop an economic climate that supports the growth and vitality of Benton County and Oregon businesses.

    Does District 16 need strong and reliable representation? Absolutely! How do you know that I can listen, help craft good policy, and make things happen? Because I’ve been doing it for years.

    I want this campaign to be about ideas and about results, not just good intentions. Let’s dream, and let’s accomplish our dreams. Please email me at [email protected] so we can talk about your dreams for our District and for Oregon, and start planning how to make them happen.

  • Aaron (unverified)

    Penny and Sara

    Good Luck on your campaigns.

  • Penny York (unverified)

    Aaron, Thanks! Penny

  • LT (unverified)

    LT-- To answer your question, Kulongoski came out in support of the war. That's a big reason why he was able to go on the trip to Iraq with the Rs. Going in itself was not a support of the war, nor did I say that it was. He was chosen as a Democratic governor who supported the war. Had he been against the war, he would not have been invited on that trip. Perhaps someone can supply a URL so I can read exactly what he said?

    Did he say "Pres. Bush, you have never made a mistake and this is a glorious war"? Did he say "As a former Marine, I know the troops will follow orders"? Is there anywhere a quote where Ted K. said the phrase "I support the war"?

  • Sara Gelser (unverified)

    Penny, welcome to the race!

    Aaron, thanks for the good wishes!

    We have some updates to the webpage today (if you click my name, you will be linked to the site). Most importantly, we've started listing my early endorsements. Former State Senator Cliff Trow, Benton County Commissioners Jay Dixon and Annabelle Jaramillo, Benton County Sheriff Jim Swinyard, Corvallis School Board Chair Nell O'Malley and a number of other city councilors and school board members have all signed on to this campaign. In addition to elected leaders in every branch of local government, I'm pleased to have earned the support of many community members, teachers, party activists, senior citizens, professors and health care workers. If you live in Benton County and would like to join the team, drop me an email and let me know! Visit my page and find out if your friends and neighbors are among the dozens of early endorsers.

    I'd also like to update the readers of Blue Oregon about my signature gathering progress. There are two ways to file for office. You can either pay a $25 fee, or you can collect hundreds of signatures from registered Democrats. I decided to get out there and ask voters to put me on the ballot. It has been two weeks and we are nearly there! I'm delighted by the positive encouragement I'm getting from people on the street. For people considering candidacy in this district or others, I strongly urge using the petition. It is a great way to meet voters, field concerns, and test the viability of a campaign. It is more work than paying $25, but it is well worth it.

  • Annabelle Jaramillo (unverified)

    I am delighted that Sara Gelser has decided to run for HD 16. I endorsed her two years ago; I wholeheartedly endorse her again! Sara cares about the district. She works hard and gets results. Her energy is envied by many. She balances community work, school board duties and family responsibilities with dignity and grace! I know she will be an excellent legislator. She will represent us well. She will be a leader and ensure positive results for HD 16.

    I sincerely hope that voters will listen to what she has to say, to her vision for our district and to judge her positively and fairly.

    Don't let the remnants of a vicious, untrue whisper campaign against her creep into this campaign season. It diminishes all of us.

    Thank you Sara for stepping forward! I'll help you in anyway I can!

  • John Barlow (unverified)

    As much as I respect Commissioner Jaramillo and some of the other "early endorsers" of Sara Gelser, I think it is really premature for people to be lining up behind one candidate or another before there has been a complete discussion of the problems in our district and how each candidate proposes to solve them. Anti-incumbent animus is not a sufficient reason for a candidacy. Believe me, I will be evaluating all the candidates on the quality of their proposed solutions AND the way that they conduct their pursuit of elected office.

    I also agree that "vicious, untrue whisper campaigns" diminish us all. Frankly, as a long-time Benton County Democratic volunteer, I was appalled by the almost-daily hit pieces aimed at Kelley Wirth during the last primary campaign. Although they had a substantive point, in tone and in content they were as ugly as anything I have seen in a House District race--and that includes Mannix vs. Chuck Sides back in the 80s. (I personally believe that the Donald Trump "you're fired!" piece cost Sara the primary election--it was that close and the piece was that awful.)

    To her credit, Representative Wirth did not respond in kind, at least not in her campaign materials. But there were frequently ugly, unsupported things said about both candidates and their backers. I know of at least half a dozen long-time activists who left the party or otherwise marginalized themselves just to avoid associating with either camp. My own personal reaction was mainly one of grief, that so many people I respected would conduct themselves so abominably in pursuit of--a back-bench, minority party seat in the State House.

    We Democrats have historically lacked a sense of proportion, and I see this mirrored in the anti-Kulongoski sentiments posted in this thread. It reminds me of Bob Straub and Vic Atiyeh in '74 and '78--recall that Straub was one of the most progressive governors we have ever had, but certain "purists" went after him in the '78 primary and many observers believe that split played a significant role in Atiyeh's win in November.

    If he runs, Ted will be our nominee in 2006. The only thing a primary fight will do is weaken the resolve of good Democrats to turn out for him in the fall. If you really think Mannix will support K-12 or higher ed or a woman's right to choose more strongly than Ted, then carry on. Ted is far from perfect, but when do we ever get everything we want in an elected politician? (Okay, Peter DeFazio is my representative in Congress, but besides him...)

    Let's all resolve to put aside our propensity to form the "circular firing squad" we have made so famous. Or we can look forward to many more years in the minority.

  • (Show?)

    the may 2004 central committee meeting of the benton county democrats was 2 days after the primary. at that meeting, sara gelser gave what was not a concession speech but a reconciliation speech. she spoke graciously about kelley and the need for the party to get 100% the nominee -- and she backed that up with a personal check for $100. it was another demonstration of sara's maturity and her dedication to the party above her own ambitions.

    kelley spoke next, and i was not the only person who was shocked and outraged at her words. rather than thanking sara and moving on to speak about the upcoming campaign, she literally whined about the unwarranted attacks on her, blaming everyone else for her problems. she took no personal responsibility for her performance in the legislature and barely said anything to the effect of doing better (just as well, considering she did not do better this year). kelley lost a great deal of support that day.

    since then, she has pretty much abandoned the local party, ignoring requests to meet with constituents, much less the executive committee. virtually all of us went into this legislative session hoping for the best from kelley; our disappointment has been sad, not vindictive. we really wanted her to prove us wrong, but she simply re-inforced our fears with her behavior. that's our incumbent, but she'll not be after the m may primary. both sara and penny are superior candidates; one or the other will win the nomination (i predict: sara!) and this is pretty much all that needs to be said about kelley. she's worked herself out of a job. i hope she can read that writing on the wall.

  • LT (unverified)

    If he runs, Ted will be our nominee in 2006. The only thing a primary fight will do is weaken the resolve of good Democrats to turn out for him in the fall. If you really think Mannix will support K-12 or higher ed or a woman's right to choose more strongly than Ted, then carry on. Ted is far from perfect, but when do we ever get everything we want in an elected politician? (Okay, Peter DeFazio is my representative in Congress, but besides him...)

    John, I agree with you about the need to avoid a circular firing squad. But it is also too early to say that the minute Ted K. files there should be no opposition. Or to assume that Mannix will be the nominee.

    This came from a Republican friend who believes this next year is possibly the best chance in a generation for a dark horse candidate for Gov. as neither party has really popular announced candidates. " I'm looking forward to being involved in the upcoming Governor's race--it ain't over until the fat lady sings and there is a lot of time between now and the filing deadline next March. I still sense no enthusiasm for any of the announced candidates and, judging by the amount of money they have raised so far, there is no joy in Muddville."

    Then there is another friend's nightmare scenario that the worst case scenario is a Gov. election between Jeff Kropf and Vicki Walker.

    I agree that Filing Day is a long way off and reject the idea that by Sept. or October whoever hasn't filed yet isn't going to file. Exactly how many months before Filing Day did Kulongoski and Mannix announce they were running in 2002?

  • Aaron (unverified)


    It is true; Teddy K is not the shoe in but the longer the fight in the primary could cost the D's more in general. But it could build more resolve too for a heavily contested race for us too.

    Then there is another friend's nightmare scenario that the worst case scenario is a Gov. election between Jeff Kropf and Vicki Walker.

    That is very scary. Another odd scary variation would be Minnis vs. Devlin.

  • checkthefacts (unverified)

    John Barlow was Kelley Wirth's Campaign Treasurer. Kelley Wirth mailed a nasty hit piece about Sarah Gesler in 2004 based on distorted information. So much for "not responding in kind." Sarah based her campaign on Kelly's established, documented and referenced record. Kelley campaigned on distortions and exaggerated excuses.

    Kelley Wirth is no stranger to negative campaigning. In 2000 she mailed me a flier with a photo of a baby smoking a cigarette, suggesting her opponant promoted tobacco products to children. She also mailed letters misleading the public about her opponant's stand on gay rights. Her mail was distorted and misleading--- isn't that dirty campaigning? And Barlow was the treasurer authorizing that campaign. It seemed to me in 2004 that Kelley's complaints about the campaign against her documented attendance record were pretty hypocritcal given her history of baseless mudslinging. Sarah at least stuck to relevant facts. Is it Sarah's fault that Kelley has such a bad record?

    Kelley Wirth filed for re-election this week. Does anyone know if Barlow is her treasurer again? Does he agree with her soft stances on methamphetamine and predatory sex offenders?

    If Penny York runs it could be a problem. She lacks name recognition and doesn't have the experience people expect in legislative candidates. I've asked around town about her and no one seems to know who she is. It looks like Sarah is starting with a lot of local backing and she proved herself with a strong showing at the polls and impressive local fundraising in 2004. That gives her a pretty big edge over a political newcomer.

    Penny isn't likely to make much ground against an incumbent and an experienced primary challenger. She has slim to no chance of winning in a three way race. I think she could win a race against Kelley, but she'd face a steep uphill battle against Sarah. If Penny runs and divides the vote, Corvallis might get stuck with two more years of ghost representation.

    Penny has some tough decisions to make. Run to build some name recognition for future political endeavors and unwittingly assist in Wirth's reelection. Or smartly step aside for this round, get some experience in local politics and ensure a good resolution to this current mess.

    I hope community interest is considered in this case and that Wirth and Gesler are left to duke it out alone.

  • pam (unverified)

    I am so happy to have a new candidate. You go Penny. It is WONDERFUL to have an alternative to those "two." We don't want a repeat of last year again.

    You are right blogger, let "THEM" duke it out.

  • John Barlow (unverified)

    I guess "checkthefacts" believes that because I was Kelley Wirth's treasurer for the 2000 campaign that my opinions about her opponent's nasty tactics are somehow discredited. So, let's do check the facts--

    I had never met Kelley Wirth before I was recruited, in 2000, by two people who are now endorsing Sara Gelser and were part of her campaign in 2004. I was not Kelley Wirth's treasurer in 2002. I agreed to serve in 2004, but resigned prior to filing any documents for that election. And because you asked, "checkthefacts," I am not Kelley Wirth's treasurer for this campaign.

    As a member of Kelley's campaign committee in 2000, I saw the child smoking piece put together by her campaign consultant. Along with several other committee members, I objected to it. We were told that it had been removed from the campaign plan. (I also remember remarking, and "checkthefacts" probably remembers this too, that whoever put the cigarette in that child's mouth committed child abuse.)

    When I received the piece in the mail in 2000, I was outraged. I informed Kelley and her campaign manager that I would resign as treasurer before I would sign a check paying for that piece. I kept my promise.

    So, "checkthefacts," when you say that as treasurer I "authorized" that piece you are lying. By the way, misspelling both Sara's first name and surname doesn't fool anyone--you are an insider hiding behind anonymity and deliberately dissembling. Why don't you describe the purported "hit piece" from 2004? Because it doesn't exist and you know it.

    Instead of offering facts, you offer anonymous advice to a third candidate, Penny York. How ironic--an anonymous writer telling a candidate that nobody has heard of her.

    "Checkthefacts," why don't you come out into the sunshine? It is a great disinfectant.

  • Sara Gelser (unverified)

    If you are a supporter of my campaign please join me in remaining focused on the future and the important issues facing Oregon. Please help keep the negativity at bay. If you’re supporting me in this campaign I hope you’ll focus on why you believe in me rather than focusing your comments on concerns about others. This campaign should be about the issues that are important to the people of HD 16, and the type of leader voters think can make progress on those issues.

    I look forward to a discussion with EVERYONE that decides to run. Elections are about willing candidates coming forward and offering alternatives. We are lucky to have many willing candidates in District 16.

  • M. Nolan (unverified)

    York's entrance into this race adds welcomed interest. If one very much wants to oust Wirth, or is vested in Gelser winning, a third hat in the ring might reasonably give cause for concern. That said, the fact that York does have supporters, who may be as motivated by the historical tone of the campaigns for this seat as by York's qualifications, should send a message to both the Gelser and Wirth camps.

    It's very plucky and sporting of York to take this on, given the gleeful strewing of brutal innuendo, distortions and out-and-out lies like rose petals at a June wedding that we've seen around here in recent years. The eleventh hour mailings of alarmist suggestions, the push polls, the snarky gossip and the general underhandedness are certainly not unique to our local Dem. party State House races. Having lived in Texas, and having close associations with Louisiana, I've seen the worst of snake-in-the-grass Southern politics. I can say in all honesty, however, that the campaigns for both Wirth and Gelser have come dangerously close to that league. Neither has escaped the hiss and taint of nasty negativity, whether through personal action or the doings of supporters.

    Critique, even hard critique is fair game, but everyone would be well advised to do whatever they can to put a lid on the mudslinging, even if it does hold some entertainment value. In an ideal world, campaigning for public office really shouldn’t be a Vaudeville slapstick number or a burlesque cross-talk act. I applaud Gelser for expressing her desire for substance over scurrilous backbiting. Clearly she realizes that her supporters do her no favors in the long run when they get down and dirty.

    As for York, I have no doubt about her qualifications – or her integrity – no matter what her name recognition might be, and will be wishing her a spirited, solid, invigorating campaign.

  • Pete Bober (unverified)

    I suspect "checkthefacts" has not really checked the facts or she/he would know that Penny York is an outstanding candidate who will make a fine legislator.

    A long time educator, she knows our community well and will have strong appeal to a broad base of supporters in the Corvallis and Philomath. She may not be as well known to some party insiders as Sara and Kelley but in the community she is highly respected.

    Like the other two candidates she has extensive "policy" experience having served on numerous boards and commissions. Of course one of her greatest strengths is her successful career as a long time education administrator and community college faculty member. I have had the pleasure of working with Penny at Linn-Benton Community College for several years and have seen first-hand her strong management, communication and advocacy skills. She is a hard worker, a great listener and someone who knows how to advance a policy agenda in a collaborative fashion.

    By way of disclosure, I have supported and voted for Kelley in the past, consider Sara to be a personal friend and as mentioned earlier have worked with Penny. I think Sara and Kelley are great on the issues and are very sincere in their desire to represent our community. However, when I compare the three candidate's career experience, professional accomplishments, educational background, community leadership and overall life experiences, Penny just seems like she is the more well rounded candidate who can best represent our community.

    I also have to comment on "checkthefacts" inappropriate attack on John Barlow. John is a well-respected member of our community who has donated a substantial amount of time, energy and money to many important progressive causes in our community including the Democratic Party over the years! We need more people like John who are willing to openly stand up for what they believe and put their beliefs into action.

    I would suggest that “checkthefacts” has demonstrated it’s pretty easy to make innuendos, inaccurate statements and give bad advice when you are anonymous, none of which are part of the Democratic tradition. Checkthefacts, try following John’s advice, quit hiding in anonymity and maybe you will be taken a bit more serious!

    Back to Penny York – take her up on her invitation to meet with her and I think you will agree she is a very competent candidate who will bring a fresh perspective to the race.


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