Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Oregon Politics

By Jesse Cornett

Every Friday, GoLocalPDX breaks down who’s rising and who’s falling in the world of Oregon politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Independent Party of Oregon

Frankly, I’ve always thought that being “independent” precluded party membership. In Oregon, after Ralph Nader failed to gain ballot access running as an independent, his supporters launched an effort to create a political party, to make it easier for non-major party candidates to access the ballot. Fair enough. I am in support of that.

Now, not yet a decade later with just a bit over five percent of registered voters having selected their party, the Independent Party of Oregon has claimed “major” party status, which means as taxpayers we have to pay for their Primary Elections (since those voters already get a ballot, this additional cost should be minimal). Unfortunately, it is still unknown how many of its registrants errantly checked Independent when their intent was to not be a member of any part, even Ralph Nader’s. If you are among that group, you can update your registration here.

Emerge Oregon

Studies show that men decide to run for office, while women more often wait to be asked to run. Many groups have worked to change that dynamic. One of those groups, Emerge Oregon, has trained just shy of 100 women leaders in Oregon, with almost 1/3 having run for elected office. That doesn’t count the others who’ve sought appointments to influential boards and commissions, which can be a stepping stone to elected office. For a group whose goal is to identify, train and encourage Democratic women to run for office, get elected and to seek higher office, I’d say that’s a fairly impressive record for their first five years.

Some of Emerge Oregon’s alumni include Oregon House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, State Representatives Shemia Fagan and Jennifer Williams, just to name a few. This year’s class was just announced. If you want a sneak peak of who will soon enough be part of the decision making process in our state (and to be fair, some already are), check out the new recruits.  Better yet, stop by and meet them. Emerge’s annual kick off event is scheduled for Friday, March 20 from 5pm to 7pm at The Cleaners (Ace Hotel) in downtown Portland.


The Portland Public Schools are governed by a 7 member board. This year, four of those seats are up for grabs and at least three appear to not have the incumbent running for re-election. The schools operating budget is just a smidge over a half a billion dollars a year.  That is over $500,000,000 and it doesn’t count the hundreds of millions more in construction money to be spent in coming years. The decisions are complex and you have to choose sides: parents or teachers? Kids or administrators? PE or science? Help depilated schools or keep others from getting that way?

With barely 20% of Portland’s population having school children, don’t think parenthood is a prerequisite, it’s not. We all have a stake in how our half a billion is spent. Congrats on your decision to run! The filing period for these slots and for every local school board open on Monday. What are you waiting for?

Denis Therauilt

The Portland Mercury announced this week they are hiring a new reporter. Their current longstanding News Editor, Denis Therauilt is moving to be the “statehouse” reporter for the Oregonian. I’ve long thought of Denis as an activist with a pen, which is a good thing because his politics are seemingly progressive. Unfortunately his corporate masters at his new employer seem to be just as intent on using their forum for the same purpose, but with a far right bent. Good luck, Denis.


Governor John Kitzhaber

It is old news that Oregon Governor gave what will surely go down as one of the most bizarre press conferences in Oregon political history. The only thing that could have made it more bizarre is if former Congressman David Wu showed up wearing his tiger costume. Then things got really bad. Then they got worse. C’mon, you don’t really need me to fill you in on details, do you? Meanwhile, Cylvia Hayes page has been quietly removed from the Governor’s website and she is apparently still in exile in Europe.

While it sure feels like the Governor’s departure is imminent, if I were him I would hold on to see if I could use resignation as a bargaining chip should the FBI, who are allegedly investigating him, come up with an indictable offense.

The Oregonian

The Oregonian made headlines in its own pages when it called for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s resignation this week. Their endorsement of Kitzhaber in the 2014 election and subsequent dogging of him until they could call for his ouster seems suspect. It feels a little like a firefighter who becomes an arsonist to justify his continued existence.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian

On the heels of announcing two major civil rights settlements last week, Commissioner Brad Avakian sent out a fundraising email on Friday that was fairly partisan. While this type of activity is par for the course in politics, it’s less common in Oregon, where legislators cease fundraising while lawmaking. This writer thinks all elected officials setting partisanship and fundraising aside while the legislature is in session is a better course.

Of course, Avakian is more likely to get a good return on that email since it was very shortly followed up by judge’s decision this Tuesday to hold up his discrimination ruling against Sweet Cakes. That promptly put him back in the crosshairs of Fox News and the nation’s other right-leaning media outlets.

Erickson Air Crane

Portland based Erickson Air Crane threw the Southern Oregon economy for a loop this yesterday when it gave pink slips to 150 employees based at its main plant in Central Point. State leaders are crowing about the strength of the economy. Of course, that means little when you are the victim of a Bain-esque “comprehensive organizational restructuring plan to reduce costs, improve profitability and enhance its competitive position.” The company didn’t announce the pay cut key executives took as a part of this move because, presumably, there were no such sacrifices made.