The Race for OR-5

The Oregonian profiles the Democratic candidates running for Darlene Hooley's seat in the US House of Representatives; Steve Marks and Kurt Schrader. The article focuses on Schrader's position as the co-chair of the Ways and Means committee:

State Sen. Kurt Schrader believes he's a near perfect match for the 5th Congressional District.

The Canby Democrat is a veterinarian, a small-business owner and a farmer. A small-town guy in a district where agriculture is big business and big cities are few.

"This district is tailor-made for someone like me," Schrader said. "I walk and talk and breathe the issues that are important to people in rural counties. I've been a farmer 25 years. I know the ups and downs of making do. I'm familiar with land-use issues, labor issues, environmental issues."

Schrader, a moderate Democrat, has served in the Legislature since 1997, representing swing districts that lean moderate to conservative, not unlike Oregon's 5th District. He's established himself as a formidable candidate. He ran unopposed for a state House seat in 2000 and a state Senate seat in 2006.

"He doesn't look like a career politician. He looks like a friendly vet," said Jim Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University.

As co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Schrader commands one of the Legislature's most powerful posts. He oversees the state budget and can block or tinker with spending requests.

Schrader is highlighting his experience in the position:

Schrader doesn't rule the budget committee with a heavy hand. He's affable, but can be blunt.

Last year, he criticized community college administrators for raising tuition while continuing to offer classes with limited appeal. Community colleges "have to realize they can't give every course to every student who walks through the door and wants to do Brain Surgery 101 and basket weaving," Schrader said.

"Trying to be everything to everybody ... is not viable," Schrader said.

That's a message he said will carry to Washington, D.C., where Schrader hopes to use his Oregon-honed fiscal skills

"I think it appears to every single person in the country that Congress does not know how to balance a budget," Schrader said. "They have no clue how to deal with Medicare and Social Security. They just put those (problems) off."

The Oregonian also discusses Steve Marks background:

The first thing Democrats might ask Steve Marks is: Who the heck are you?

Marks is no stranger to Oregon politics but has not held elective office and remains unknown to most voters. He spent his career working behind the scenes in Salem, much of it as political point man for former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

To become the Democratic nominee in the 5th Congressional District, Marks must quickly step out of Kitzhaber's shadow and raise his own profile. That takes time and money. Marks doesn't have much of either.

His opponent, Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, may be wealthy enough to finance his primary campaign, should he choose.

What Marks holds in abundance is gumption and tenacity, say those close to him.

The profile notes some of Marks's accomplishments while working for Kitzhaber:

As Kitzhaber's top lieutenant, Marks used his blend of optimism, persistence and good humor to guide several controversial bills through an often combative Legislature.

Some bills survived: a workers' compensation reform measure, a money-saving plan that put some nonviolent offenders in county jails instead of state prisons, a prohibition against new hydroelectric dams on streams with salmon and steelhead runs.

Some did not. A proposal to allow development on marginally productive farm and forestland ran into opposition in the 1990s from then-House Speaker Larry Campbell, R-Eugene, a dominating figure who personally shared his displeasure with Marks.

Marks "is the ultimate wonk with a sense of humor," said Marla Rae, who worked with Marks in state government. The two later teamed up to help plan a statewide network that assures police, fire and emergency services could communicate with one another.


  • JHL (unverified)

    I don't live in CD-5, but I'm glad we have two excellent candidates for the position. My only hesitation is this: Should Schrader win, who is going to be Ways & Means co-chair in the Senate? I, for one, can't think of a steady enough hand with the necessary budgeting experience in the caucus.


  • DR (unverified)

    Current Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin would be the best choice because of his experience and temperment. Senator Alan Bates would be a steady hand as well.

    After that, it becomes much more difficult.

  • Roger (unverified)

    Senator Devlin would be a much better Co-Chair on Ways & Means than he is a Majority Leader. He really lacks the political skill to round up the troops when it comes time for party unity. There are much better options available for Majority Leader in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

    As for CD-5, Schrader fits the district best. Hands down.

  • LT (unverified)

    I agree with Roger. Marks is very bright, and does as well as any of the non-legislators running for major office. But I was enormously impressed with Kurt when I saw him speak. I have known Kurt and Steve for a long time, both are qualified, but I think Kurt fits the district better and has great experience.

  • Dylan (unverified)

    I just got my voter's pamphlet in the mail and I gotta admit that I wasn't that impressed by the 5 Democratic entries. I have decided I am going to vote for the woman (I don't remember her name). She's getting my vote b/c she had the courage to actually list specific things she would work for (as opposed to stating such useless platitudes as "I'll work to make health care affordable"). And she actually mentioned impeachment, which I wouldn't mind the new Congress taking up in Bush's final days.

  • LT (unverified)
    <h2>Dylan---watch the WW 5th Dist. interview on the other topic before deciding.</h2>
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