HD-34: A primary with a serious choice

T.A. Barnhart

In Oregon, politicians are free to sell themselves to whoever wants to pay. Loren Parks wants to give you a zillion dollars? Hey, no problem. Just one catch: you have to enter that fact into ORESTAR, and anyone, anywhere, can then see who your buyers are. Our politicians can take all the money they want, but they have to report it. Publicly.

And anyone can then follow the money.

I don’t live in House District 34, so I don’t have a vote in who replaces Rep Chris Harker, the Most Mellow Man in the House. I’ve paid little attention to the race. I hear good things about Ken Helm, and Rep Harker has endorsed Brian Tosky. But so has Stand for Children, and gives me cause for concern — especially since Tosky’s webpage makes clear that education is his #1 concern.

But also of concern is the source of a lot of his money. Here’s how it breaks down by industry (as of 11am or so, Wednesday, May 7):


Regence Oregon PAC – $2,500
The Standard – $5,000
Farmer’s Employee and Agent PAC – $1,000

Land Use

Oregon Realtors PAC – $2,500
AGC Committee for Action [General Contractors] – $2,000
Oregonians for Affordable Housing – $2,000
(in 2012, OAH gave $105,000 to Republicans & $5,000 to Dems)

Fossil Fuels

PacifiCorp Pacific Power/Rocky Mtn Power – $2,000
Portland General Electric Employee Candidate Assistance Fund – $5,000
Natural Gas PAC – $2,500
International Paper PAC – $500


Portland Business Alliance – $3,500
Oregon Business Association PAC – $10,000
OR Restaurant & Lodging Assn PAC – $2,500
Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce PAC – $500
CenturyLink Oregon Employees' PAC – $2,000
Oregon Bankers PAC – $2,000
Oregon Beverage PAC – $2,000
The Greenbrier Companies – $3,500
Ryan Finley (founder of SurveyMonkey) – $5,000


Stand for Children – $5,000

For public education advocates, Stand buying into a House race is of great concern. Stand has been a strong advocate for the kinds of change opposed by many parents and educators: testing and the Common Core. Stand contributes to candidates from both parties, but this is an open seat, not the re-election of a House leader or committee chair.

Compare Tosky’s funding to Helm’s, who is the recipient of some big and targetted funding as well:

Cash Contributors

Oregon Trial Lawyers Assn – $10,000
OLCV – $5,000
OR Nurses PAC – $5,000
Beaverton Teachers PAC – $3,000
Brad Avakian – $2,090
AFSCME Council 75 – $5,000
AFT – $2,500

In-kind Contributors

SEIU – $15,000 (canvassing)
OEA – $5,000 (canvassing)

Helm is getting some big bucks from just a few groups – $32,590 out of $74,000 reported (as of May 7), plus over $20,000 in in-kind services. But here’s the thing: The organizations backing Helm historically support the heck out of Democrats. Tosky’s money looks more Republican. Of the $81,000 he’s raised (or rather, reported), $62,000 came from the sources listed above. And while the Oregon Business Alliance will never be confused with AOI, they certainly aren’t on the same page as SEIU.

(As of April 30, Tosky reported having over $22,000 cash balance and Helm – through May 7 – nearly $37,000. I guess you can expect to see and hear lots of ads in May.)

This kind of money in a primary points out how high the stakes are. So, too, do the sources of the money. One one side is a traditional liberal Democrat with backing from labor, environmentalists and the trial lawyers. On the other, a Democrat who is taking money from resource extractors, banks, businesses that oppose a progressive minimum wage, and the biggest name in the education “reform” movement. At least HD34 voters have this going from them: the choice between Tosky and Helm is pretty clear — if you follow the money.

Helm and OEA versus Tosky and Stand for Children.

That kind of sums this race up.

Push polling: Tosky grows desperate?

HD 34 voter Jane Edwards received 3 push poll calls last week on behalf of Tosky. In an email to me, she reported that all three calls – the first on May 1, the other two on May 6 – asked who she was voting for; she answered “Ken Helm” to each. The first call then asked if she would still vote for him if she knew he had “taken some action” (she couldn’t recall the exact wording) regarding “land use planning that hurt small businesses”.

The next two calls both asked if she would vote for Helm if she knew “education advocates” including Stand for Children supported Tosky. The first call followed up by asking if would vote for Helm if she knew he had opposed a land use bill signed by the Governor.

Needless to say, Edwards answered “Helm” regardless of the unsubtantiated “information” being provided.

Having to resort to push polling is a sign of weakness and desperation. Whether or not Tosky paid for the poll or if it was done by a group supporting his candidacy – he’s waiting until the last minute to file reports with ORESTAR – this is not a tactic progressive Democrats should resort to. Tosky’s website has all the right words; his money, and his use of it, undermines those messages.

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