Is Mike Schaufler Losing Labor’s Support?

By Steve Hughes of Portland, Oregon. Steve is the state director of the Oregon Working Families Party. Previously, he contributed "Rebuild Main Street Oregon. Bring Your Money Home."

On Wednesday, Jeff Mapes reported that the Oregon Working Families Party officially endorsed Jeff Reardon (D) in his primary challenge against Mike Schaufler (D).

Today, I am happy to also announce that two of the WFP’s affiliate unions—the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701—have joined the WFP in endorsing Jeff Reardon. Between them, these two unions represent almost 25,000 working men and women in the state of Oregon.

Taking on a ten-year incumbent state legislator like Mike Schaufler is never an easy decision. Certainly there are unions that will continue to back him. However, I think it is now fair to say that Mike Schaufler can no longer assume he has a lock on support from organized labor.

This should not be surprising given Schaufler’s recent track record:

Clearly, it is time for a change.

The leadership of the Working Families Party met Jeff Reardon and they were impressed with his integrity, his willingness to listen, and his working class values. Jeff grew up in a family of union mill workers in Kelso, WA and he was the first in his family to complete college. He served in the Navy and went on to teach Industrial Arts at both Parkrose and David Douglas High Schools. As a former member of the David Douglas school board he is known and respected in the community. His campaign to unseat Mike Schaufler has already secured an impressive list of endorsements, including former Governor Barbara Roberts, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and many others.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. Can Jeff Reardon win? Our leadership was convinced that the answer is yes. Consider these factors:

  • Only 28% of survey respondents had heard of Schaufler, and only 21% were able to rate him on a 1 – 5 scale
  • By contrast, Jeff Reardon was recognized by 36% of survey respondents.
  • Of those who rate him, Schaufler’s “temperature” reading was only 36 (50 is considered neutral). By comparison, Obama rated at 59 and Romney and Santorum rated below 30.
  • 55% of voters who could rate Schaufler felt it was time to give someone else a chance to represent HD 48.

The pollster concludes:

“Mike Schaufler is not well known, not well liked by those who do know him, and has compiled a record that makes him extremely vulnerable to a well-funded candidate who is acceptable to progressive voters in House District 48.”

This was not an easy choice, but in the end the leadership of the Working Families Party is confident that it was the right thing to do. Some will argue that we should simply focus our efforts on getting more Democrats elected. As a party that believes the political status quo has for a long time not been serving the interests of working people, we feel this argument is short sighted.

We have all watched the impact that Tea Party politics has had over our public discourse. Among other things, the Tea Party's willingness to challenge Republicans in primary races has more and more skewed our political discussion beyond all recognition. We believe it is time to fight back, and to be effective we will need to start at the local level. With that in mind, there is no clearer call to action than that presented by this race.

This race will be our number one priority in the primary season. We believe that if we can talk to the voters about the choice they have in this election they choose Jeff Reardon. If we can get those voters to the polls, we win. Therefore, in the coming weeks we will be talking to our brothers and sisters in the labor movement and the progressive community. We will be raising money and investing our resources and volunteer hours to talk directly with voters. In the end we will elect Jeff Reardon as the next representative for Oregon House District 48.

Learn more about Jeff Reardon - and join us on Saturday (1 to 4 p.m.) to kick off Jeff's canvassing effort. Donate to Reardon for Oregon here. Join Jeff on Facebook here.

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    Curious what people think of the AFL-CIO endorsing Rep. Schaufler for re-election.

    Going to be a tough fight.

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        I learned painfully that most endorsements are made out of loyalty for past support rather than who should be in office. It results in ridiculous situations like this.

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    The Oregon State Fire Fighters Council and the IAFF are supporting Mike Schaufler for re-election. Representative Schaufler is a strong supporter of Union firefighters and will continue to be when re-elected. He has strong Union support in this election.

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    If you have ever witnessed his behavior at a legislative hearing, you will will understand why he is losing support.

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