The Liftoff: Political leaders signal possible end of COVID restrictions? Plus *big* money flows in Gov. race
PLUS: a note on Thanksgiving, short session legislative preview, DeFazio celebrates, new candidates for the legislature,
Welcome back to The Liftoff! Because it’s Thanksgiving week, we wanted to offer a quick note on the holiday:
If you’re like me, you remember the elementary school version of the “Thanksgiving myth”—pilgrims and Native Americans joyously sharing turkey dinner together to celebrate abundance and kinship. This is, of course, not accurate. Here is an excerpt from an interview with author and historian David Silverman in The Smithsonian on the historical origin of Thanksgiving:
“Using a shared dinner as a symbol for colonialism really has it backward. No question about it, Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels. That’s not the stuff of Thanksgiving pageants. The Thanksgiving myth doesn’t address the deterioration of this relationship culminating in one of the most horrific colonial Indian wars on record, King Philip’s War, and also doesn’t address Wampanoag survival and adaptation over the centuries, which is why they’re still here, despite the odds.”
Today, Thanksgiving means different things to different people. For some, it’s a day or mourning; for others, a time to celebrate family (or Friendsgiving!).
We wanted to express our gratitude to you for supporting OR360 Media by subscribing, reading the newsletter or opinion pieces, and listening to the podcast.
Regardless of how you observe the holiday, we ask that you consider supporting your local food bank (or the Oregon Food Bank). An article in OPB this week outlines the pandemic-related supply chain issues creating major challenges for these critical organizations. They need our help!
1. Governor’s Race: Betsy Johnson doubles Nick Kristof’s fundraising haul
The fund-race has officially begun. A week after Nick Kristof reported a seven-figure fundraising haul, Sen. Betsy Johnson (who is running as an independent) reported a remarkable $2.3 million from a “who’s who of Oregon’s wealthy families”, according to OPB. State Treasurer Tobias Read and Speaker Tina Kotek trail both Kristof and Johnson with roughly $500,000 each on hand.
On the Republican side, here are some cash-on-hand totals: Bridget Barton has roughly $250,000, Dr. Bud Pierce and Mayor Stan Pulliam have roughly $200,000, Mayor Kerry McQuisten has ~$50,000, and Jessica Gomez has ~$20,000.
Remember: Unlike the other candidates, Johnson won’t have to spend money to win a primary. She can stockpile most of her funds for the general election.
Stating the obvious: When all is said and done, this is likely to be the most expensive gubernatorial race in Oregon history.
Catch up: There were several other important developments in the Governor’s race this week. Kristof earned his first organizational endorsement with the United Food and Commercial Workers 555, a large labor union. This is a tremendous boost for him. Kristof has not yet filed for office, according to Willamette Week; once he does file, his eligibility is likely to be challenged in court because of the residency requirement.
In legislative news, Dirk VanderHart of OPB has a story with potential gubernatorial race implications. Here is a teaser:
“In a deal reflected in emails and confirmed by one witness, [Rep. Janelle Bynum] says she secured an agreement from [Speaker Tina Kotek] and House Democratic Leader Barbara Smith Warner late last year that they would back her bid for speaker if she pursued the job in the future. Kotek and Smith Warner acknowledge a deal but insist it is not what Bynum recalls.”
Finally, the backdrop of this gubernatorial election: a self-explanatory headline from a Nigel Jaquiss story in WW: “Polling Shows Kate Brown Is Least Popular Governor in America.” Whoever wins will be inheriting a very challenging job in a particularly challenging moment amidst the most polarized our political environment has been in decades.
2. Legislative politics continue to heat up
Veteran State Sen. Chuck Thomsen (first elected in 2010) will not run for re-election. Rep. Daniel Bonham is running to replace him and has secured the endorsements of the leading Republicans in the district, including Thomsen, Rep. Christine Drazan, former Rep. Mark Johnson, and former Sen. Alan Olsen.
Melissa Busch, a nurse who lives in Warren, will run for Senate District 16, the seat being vacated by Sen. Betsy Johnson. Assuming they both win their primaries, she will face Rep. Suzanne Weber in the general election.
Councilor Daniel Nguyen, the first person of color ever elected to the Lake Oswego City Council, will run for the new House District 38, the seat being vacated by Rep. Andrea Salinas (running for the new 6th Congressional District).
State Rep. Wlnsvey Campos will run for the new Senate District 18, a new Washington County seat with no overlap of the old Senate District 18 seat. No other candidates have announced.
Rep. Jack Zika of Redmond will not run for re-election in House District 53. Emerson Levy, who ran against Zika last time, and Bend-La Pine School Board Member Janet Sarai Llerandi are running in the Democratic primary in the new swing district.
State Rep. Jeff Reardon, who was elected in 2012, will also retire.
3. Federal rundown: DeFazio cheers infrastructure bill; “Trumpbacker” returns; conservative group attacks Schrader; Sams approved
Pop quiz: who do you think is the most excited Oregonian about the infrastructure bill? Answer: it’s Congressman Peter DeFazio—and he’s already playing cheerleader for the bill he played a major role in crafting. According to DeFazio, Oregon is likely to see at least $3.4 billion from the bill flow directly into improving infrastructure, among numerous other benefits. Les Zaitz at the Oregon Capital Chronicle has the full story.
Spotted: Governor Kate Brown at the infrastructure signing ceremony.
The “Trumpbacker” returns: Jimmy Crumpacker has formally filed to run for congress in the new 5th Congressional District. Nigel Jaquiss has the story for Willamette Week. Crumpacker, who previously ran for Congress as the “Trumpbacker” in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District (finishing 4th in the GOP primary that Congressman Cliff Bentz won), will make for a competitive primary against leading GOP candidate Lori Chavez-Deremer. One big question: how much money will the Crumpacker family spend on the campaign? In his last race, it was hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, another influential D.C.-based conservative group has its eyes on Congressman Kurt Schrader and the Oregon 5th. The Club for Growth, an advocacy group that supports free market policies, released an ad targeting Schrader for “caving in” and voting for President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. This comes on the heels a recent ad campaign by the American Action Network attacking Schrader for supporting policies that benefit Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “rich liberals.”
Bottom Line: Republicans see political opportunity in Oregon with Biden’s low approval ratings. Expect many more ads targeting Schrader (and other Dems in the 5th and 6th CDs) to tie them to President Biden and their support for a “socialist” agenda—the language being used by the NRCC.
Finally, something we can all agree on: one of Oregon’s highest-level appointees in the Biden Administration was unanimously approved by the Senate and will shortly take up his post. Chuck Sams officially became National Park Service Director after being nominated to the position by President Biden. Sams will be the first Native American to hold the post in history. Antonio Sierra has the full story for the Eastern Oregonian.
4. An early preview of short-session legislation
Rep. Dacia Grayber is working on a bill to increase the types of cancer that are considered “occupational” for firefighters
From the Oregon School Boards Association: Legislation is coming to protect superintendents
Rep. Pam Marsh and Sen. Kayse Jama are working on bills to help people cool down during extreme heat
Sen. Michael Dembrow will introduce a bill for early release of terminally ill patients
Sen. Floyd Prozanski will bring a bill on retroactively applying a recent Supreme Court decision on non-unanimous juries
Know of other bills coming in 2020? Let us know!
5. Are COVID restrictions coming to an end?
Several candidates for Governor have made COVID-19 related issues central to their campaign. Mayors Stan Pulliam (Sandy) and Kerry McQuisten (Baker City) both trace their respective entrances into the race to pandemic “lockdowns”. On the Democratic side, Treasurer Tobias Read has leaned in on vaccine mandates as a tool to quicken the end of pandemic restrictions.
Meanwhile, as Julia Silverman of Portland Monthly noted on Twitter, “something’s happening here.” She was referencing a series of tweets, the first by Rep. Dacia Grayber saying, “I believe in strong public health measures. I believe in vaccines, and I believe in masking where it’s effective and appropriate based on science. I also believe we need to have a conversation about offramps. It’s time. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.” Rep. Lisa Reynolds and Rep. Paul Evans, both Democrats, echoed their agreement.
Two big developments are adding fuel to this conversation:
On Saturday, all Oregonians over 18 were made eligible for a COVID booster shot.
The practice of quarantining students who may have been exposed to COVID-19 should be ending soon because of a massive expansion of rapid testing.
Does this signal that pandemic-related restrictions will soon be eased or ended? Who knows—but it’s the closest we’ve had to a conversation around permanent “offramps”.
6. The Bridge: Could the first person of color elected Oregon governor be a Republican?
Jessica Gomez thinks so. She is a business leader running as a Republican candidate for governor. Born in New York, she relocated to Southern Oregon with her family at a young age where she later navigated poverty and homelessness. Gomez overcame these tough circumstances and moved on to found and serve as CEO of a successful semiconductor company that now employs nearly 30 people.
Gomez identified as a Democrat until the mid-2010s but is running on the platform of a self-described moderate Republican who believes she can unify the state with her pro-business and education reform agenda. This was a wide-ranging conversation covering everything from critical race theory to semiconductors and geopolitical competition with China. We also talk about what it means for Gomez to be the only major gubernatorial candidate who is a person of color and what a GOP agenda for racial justice might look like.
7. News Roundup
More drama at Newberg’s Schools: “‘The entire town’s heart sank’: Newberg School Board faces 2 recalls”
A sad day for Oregonians everywhere. ESPN: No. 3 Oregon Ducks' CFP hopes dimmed after crushing loss to Utah
From the CDC: Oregon drug overdose deaths up 45% over last year; nearly 17 points higher than the national average. Click here to see the numbers.
Sound familiar? “Do Recent Elections in Virginia, New Jersey Hold Clues for Oregon in 2022?” from Portland Monthly
Progressives (including prominent legislators) condemn People for Portland: Progressives Denounce “People for Portland” Lobbying Campaign at City Hall
Progressives fear electoral backlash over public safety: “'Defund the police' rhetoric haunts Portland area progressives” from the Portland Tribune
Does anyone want to run for auditor?: “Portland City Auditor is a big job that no one wants”
Check out this economic forecast: Tax revenue is booming
Student protests and advocacy from Rep. Ricki Ruiz leads to Gresham-Barlow School District review of school resource officers: “Gresham-Barlow superintendent calls for review of school resource officer program”
Thank you for reading.
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