Introducing Brent Barton

Jake Oken-Berg

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.Brentbarton_2

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:
• 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.

  • Frank Carper (unverified)

    I may usually be old and cynical, but Brent is one of the first politicians I've been truly excited about in a long time. I will be out to help Brent and everyone that reads this needs to believe that Brent is the future of our state and come help me.

  • Jules Kopel-Bailey (unverified)

    Brent Barton will win this race, plain and simple. He is bright, hardworking, and knows and represents the people of his district. Brent will make a fantastic addition to the legislature and this is a great chance for us to take out an incumbent who can't and won't face the environmental, health care, educational and budget challenges that are so pressing in Oregon.

  • Alex Aronson (unverified)

    Saturday's forecast portends a lovely cocktail of snow/rain/sleet/misery, but I'll be walking with Brent.

    In his capacity as a volunteer and member of the Bus Project’s board, Brent has been a tireless and unflaggingly loyal organizational champion.

    He’s really smart. He cares about good things. He volunteers his spare time. He works his ass off all day and night and still manages to show up to meetings with a smile on his face. And damn if he ain’t one good-lookin’ sonuvagun.

    11am Saturday at Clackamas High.

  • Marshall Collins (unverified)

    This is great news for district 51. My time living in PDX was spent in the district and I can tell you that the only reason she won her last election was because she had the financing to buy a bunch of billboards and was able to put together a nice (albeit deceiving) resume in the voters pamphlet with column after column of endorsements. Rep. Flores is a lock-step hack that Karen Minnis and Wayne Scott could always rely on for a vote. And I am sure she was happy to give it provided that during election time they made sure she was given some $$$. I was actually quite suprised when I moved to that area and found out she was my rep as the area is much more progressive then what is on the surface. It has just been a matter of finding a good progressive candidate with enough visibility, finacing and support to take her out! Go Brent!

  • (Show?)

    Working with Brent on the Kulongoski campaign was a real eye opener. He claims he discovered me and encouraged me to consider becoming more involved with the Democrats across Oregon as we worked together. He did. I know from working with him, that he is intelligent, hard working, thoughtful and has the ability work with people of all ages...even me! Brent is just the sort of Democrat who will be the future of our party. Best wishes Brent!

  • LT (unverified)

    "the area is much more progressive then what is on the surface"

    YES! This is the message some of us have been trying to spread for years! Those of us who live in downstate districts know more about the actual voters and attitude of the district than those staffers who make cracks about a "lousy R to D ratio".

    I noticed in the post it said

    The district has only a three percent Republican voter registration edge: 39% Republican, 36% Democrat, and 21.5% non-affiliated.

    Thanks Jake for including that!

    I live in a district where in 2006 an under funded candidate who had never run for office before managed to put a scare into a Republican incumbent not only during the campaign but in the results--the margin was something like half the NAV number, the smallest margin that person had ever won by. Those who talk in wonkish terms like R to D ratio are really saying not only that 20% or more of the voters in a district don't count, they are saying numbers are more important than people.

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    Great post, Jake!

    Brent is one of the most thoughtful and energetic people I've met. He's just what Salem needs and I'm proud to support him.

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    Another plus is that he ain't a Boomer. It's beautiful to see that the Gen X and Gen Y (yeah I know you guys hate the terms) kids taking the reins of gummint.

    Kudos to Mr. Barton for his guts, intelligence and work ethic. Flores is one of the few truly nasty members of the old crowd who chose not to swim away from the ship, and whoever brings her down, will automatically be doing a huge faovr to every Oregonian from either party who value results over hit points.

    Also worth remembering that those who founded the Bus Project, (Jefferson, Joe, Anne, Jesse, the author of the post Jake, and others) with the central goal of identifying, energizing, and nurturing a new generation of progressive talent have gone a long way toward furthuring those goals.

    Go get 'em Brent.

    Pat Ryan from right next door in HD-52

  • Charlie (unverified)

    I spent six hours last Saturday knocking doors with Brent in the pouring rain and cold. Not only was it tons of fun but I promise you Linda Flores didn't talk to the same number of voters. Brent will win this by outworking the opposition.

  • Dan D (unverified)

    Brent Barton's House District is inside Rick Metsger's Senate District.

    Metsger is a Democrat the was openly pro civil unions and pro measure 37 reform yet he won that half of his district overwhelmingly. Clearly these folks don't have a problem voting for Democrats.

    This bodes well for Brent's Run.

    Also Rick Metsger, for the first time, has endorsed a house candidate running in his Senate district. It means that Metsger clearly thinks that Brent has what it takes to win this district.

    This too bodes well.

    Brent is running in a fast changing district that is being represented by an ultra conservative that does not fit the district. Brent is a hard working, smart, and hungry candidate that has clearly impressed local leaders.

    I see a recipe for success where we can elected a really great new legislator and in the process get rid of one more member of the House Republican leadership.

    I'll be out with him walking this weekend at 11am at Clackamas high.

    I hope to see lots more people out there with us.

  • (Show?)

    I wish Brent all the best and I really hope he wins this race. He's a great guy and an excellent candidate.

    I hope everyone who can do so goes out to help him canvass. This is one of those seats we can win and get us the number we need in the House to get some work done.

  • anonymous (unverified)

    Linda Flores - proud member of the odious Oregonians for Immigration Reform (

  • Chris Garrett (unverified)

    If I weren't busy with my own campaign, I'd be out working for Brent. I've known him for several years and we are colleagues at the same law firm. He is smart, high energy, witty, a quick study, and passionate about this campaign. He'll do the work to win -- and he can do it with our help.

  • jaybeat (unverified)

    Here here!

    We need more Dems like Brent who are willing to challenge the conventional wisdom that says Democratic support falls off in direct proportion to population density.

    Those of us at the suburban/rural fringe NEED and WANT more progressive representation, on issues close to where we live, like land use, water quality, environmental protection, transportation, etc., but also on the bigger issues like growth, taxation, corporate giveaways and what kind of Oregon we want to live in 50 years from now.

    Now, who wants to take on Scott Brunn??? ;-)

  • jefferson smith (unverified)

    Heckuva candidate. In a district that needs strong advocacy for middle class folks and an eye to the future, given all the changes in the district.

    There's been talk of the importance of districts like Wayne Scott's former district. For Democrats looking to pick up a seat, this race looks every bit as important. Indeed, I would say moreso. I recognize that my view might be colored by my high opinion of Brent. But irrespective of that (tempted here to write "irregardless," just 'cause it's one of my favorite miswords...second only to "a whole 'nother"), the data offers a lot of counsel in Brent's favor.

    I wouldn't overemphasize the money, although it is indicative of some of what he offers (persuasiveness, an ability to inspire confidence, hard work, gregariousness, etc.) I would say that for all the talk of numbers/targets/etc., my hunch is that he will benefit a lot from being harder working, sharper, and more willing to engage than your average bear (or even your average candidate). And that's all irregardless of a whole 'nother thing...he'd be a good legislator.

  • (Show?)

    It's great when young energetic Ds are willing to take on races like this. Brent's a good guy and a terrific candidate. And I think he can win.


  • (Show?)

    Brent is a great candidate and a great guy. I'm looking forward to talking to folks about him at the door and appreciate that he's part of a new generation of leaders willing to take on tough fights to make our state a better place. No one will outwork him, and that's what so many of these races come down to.I know Brent will do great things down in Salem.

  • A Clack Voter (unverified)

    As a voter in this district, I will be thrilled to have a Representative who actually has more than a vapid look in their eyes and a thought process more than "let me check with the Caucus". Keep up the good work!

  • KenandZukes (unverified)

    Plus, he is super dreamy

  • Lew Frederick (unverified)

    Prediction: Brent will take this district and it will be because of his ideas and his hard work. He is exactly the kind of Oregonian we need in the Oregon House and running for office throughout the state. Great post Jake!

  • Joe Smith (unverified)

    I dono about dreamy, but one other neat thing about Brent is that he and his dad do a terrific comedy routine. And seriously, I've had the chance to observe him in relevant (to the legislature) action for going on two years, and he will be a tremendous asset in Salem.

  • Adam (unverified)

    Can't wait to see Brent in Salem!

  • Zoe Walmer (unverified)

    I've had the privilege of knowing and working with Brent for several years now and can testify that not only is he incredibly dedicated, smart and hard-working--he's downright inspiring.

    Brent's genuineness and passion will make him a wonderful representative and a skilled legislator.

    He's the real candidate of change. All those other change candidates are just imitating.

  • Rose Wilde (unverified)

    Challenge: I gave Brent a check -- won't you?

    Young, new, grassroots -- send the man some money.

    <h2>And then work for Voter Owned Elections so that young, new folks have a reasonable chance of unseating an incumbent!</h2>

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