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Election 2008: Our County and State Endorsements 

For Deschutes County Commission: Alan Unger

click to enlarge Alan Unger
  • Alan Unger
Alan UngerThere's a running joke about Deschutes County Commissioner Mike Daly and the punch line is essentially: Mike Daly.

Anyone who has followed his career to any degree can't help but marvel at the two-term commissioner's resiliency. He somehow manages to survive despite his gaffes and extreme provincialism. Daly is famous for viewing every county issue, no matter how nuanced, from his own life experience as a state trooper and Redmond excavation contractor.

He practices his homespun approach to governance at a time when our community, in this case the county, is growing larger, more complex and more diverse. To the best of our reckoning, Daly has survived on a mix of personal connections and political affiliations. He's survived some legitimate challenges, but perhaps none as serious as this year's campaign by fellow Redmond area politician Alan Unger, who is finishing out his term as Redmond mayor while he campaigns against Daly.

A political moderate, known for his collaborative and non-confrontational style, Unger is riding the reform wave on a well-funded campaign that benefits from a surge in local Democratic registrations. He also has the luxury of clinging to Barack Obama's coattails during a presidential election when Democrats are expecting to cash in on voters' discontent with the Republican Party.

But none of this is reason enough to cast a vote for Unger when ballots begin arriving in the next few days. It is Unger's years of public service in Redmond that have given him the tools to make the next step to county commissioner. Through his multiple years as Redmond mayor, Unger has demonstrated an ability to work collaboratively with Salem and other local governments in Central Oregon - prerequisites of any effective county commissioner. A native of Redmond, Unger has proved a nearly tireless social servant who prides himself on giving everyone who has an audience before him a fair hearing. He has a working knowledge of the issues that face Deschutes County and its residents and has a track record of success as a longtime city councilor and mayor of Redmond, overseeing city government during a period of rapid population and economic growth. And, it's worth noting, doing it without the same political and administrative upheaval as we've seen in Bend. Deschutes County is moving, albeit slowly, into the 21st Century, it's time to bring our politicians with us. Select Alan Unger for county commissioner.

For State Treasurer: Ben Westlund

click to enlarge Ben Westlund
  • Ben Westlund
Ben WestlundBen Westlund doesn't need any introductions to Central Oregonians. We've followed his political journey from Republican house member to state senator to Independent Party gubernatorial candidate and ultimately Democratic senator.

While he's been heavily criticized, mostly by his former party, for his shifting affiliations, his independent spirit has always resounded with Central Oregonians. But Westlund has put forward a convincing argument that the Republican Party left him rather than the other way around - a sort of West Coast Jim Jeffords.

Regardless, Westlund has been an effective legislator for more than a decade and has nearly encyclopedic knowledge of Oregon's state finances, owing to his time as chair of the joint Ways and Means Committee, i.e., the legislature's checkbook.

Westlund's opponent, Allen Alley, is relying on his experience as an entrepreneur and businessman, but he's short on political experience and that could limit his effectiveness. On the flip side Westlund's politics are informed by his own experience running several successful, if unconventional, businesses in the private sector. Yes, Westlund is a hometown boy. But personal politics aside, he's the right man for the job.

For Secretary of State: Kate Brown

In one corner we have an attorney, professor of law and veteran state legislator with more than a decade of experience in Salem. On the other we have a former TV anchor. At stake is a position that will monitor and shape Oregon's election laws while overseeing the process of redrawing legislative boundaries across the state, an extremely partisan undertaking that will potentially shift the balance of power to one of the two major parties. While some observers have noted that Republican Rick Dancer supports converting the office to a non-partisan position, this is just a fantasy. There is no way to de-politicize this job. If it's not an elected position, then it's an appointed one. Either way, the politics persevere. So we'll take the candidate with the most legal and legislative experience, Kate Brown.

For Attorney General: John Kroger

click to enlarge John Kroger
  • John Kroger
John KrogerJohn Kroger is the real deal crime fighter, a former Marine whose past prosecutorial experience includes working on the federal Enron case and jailing East Coast mobsters.

While he's got the resume to prove he's tough on crime and criminals, he also understands that a justice system that emphasizes prosecution over prevention is doomed to failure. We like Kroger's balanced approach to law enforcement and his commitment to tackling the root of criminal behavior. And, hey, it's not like you got much choice here. He's also the Republican Party nominee, thanks to an aggressive write-in campaign.

For State Senate District 27: Maren Lundgren

click to enlarge Maren Lundgren
  • Maren Lundgren
Maren LundgrenSpeaking of Straight Hope, no one we've encountered this election season has injected as much feel-goodism into our election-weary bodies as Maren Lundgren, the Bend-based public defender and mother of four who is taking on the favored Bend City Council member Chris Telfer in the state senate's 27th district. Lundgren told us she was first inspired to become a lawyer after reading To Kill a Mockingbird when she was 12 years old - if that doesn't give you some faith in mankind, you might want to check your pulse.

But on the issues, Lundgren is sharp and balanced. She's a strong advocate for the environment, believing in bringing more green business to Central Oregon and the state as well, and also opposes the Metolius destination resort projects despite the fact that her own cousin is one of the developers.

While Telfer has raised issues of health care during her campaign, Lundgren has come out in support of universal health care within the state, and through her work in juvenile law, realizes that drug and mental health care are also important to maintaining Oregon's vitality. She is also big on education when it comes to the budget saying, "I think the schools are not the place where we tighten our belts."

Yes, it's true, we endorsed Telfer in the Republican primary-but only because she was running against a conservative wackadoo too concerned with his horses to bring up any substantive issues. Telfer seems to be relying on her reputation as the "lone voice of reason" on the City Council, but we don't think we need to send a lone voice over to Salem. No thanks, we'll go with the Harper Lee-adoring Lundgren for the 27th Senate District.

For House District 53: Conrad Ruel

click to enlarge Conrad Ruel
  • Conrad Ruel
Conrad RuelYou can't help but like Conrad Ruel. A former Marine who spent his career as a school teacher, Ruel is a self effacing Democrat running a long shot campaign against incumbent Rep. Gene Whisnant.

And when we say long shot we mean, like not a chance in hell.

Even his own party has written him off. Democratic donors, like Future PAC, who are pouring money into competitive races are passing him over. As a result he has raised less than $6,000 for his legislative campaign. In contrast, Whisnant has so much money that he is literally giving it away to other legislators facing stiffer challenges.

While Ruel is a long shot to win, it's no reason not to support him and his ideas, If nothing else, it sends a message to Gene that he needs to come closer to the middle on issues like the environment, health care and education. Ruel supports the concept of universal health care, something that Whisnant opposes. Ruel describes himself as an environmentalist, though not of the tree hugging or tree chaining variety. Whisnant, on the other hand, earned a dismal score of 12 out of 100 from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters in 2005. He raised that mark to an unimpressive 42 in 2007. We could go on, but suffice it to say that if you want to send a message to Gene, a vote for Ruel will probably resonate more than any letter or phone call. And hey, miracles do happen. Just ask the Tampa Bay Rays.

For House District 54: Judy Stiegler

click to enlarge Judy Stiegler
  • Judy Stiegler
Judy StieglerFour years ago most local Democrats were probably too devastated by George W. Bush's victory over John Kerry to dwell long on, Judy Stiegler's heart wrenchingly close loss to Chuck Burley in the race for the newly created House District 54. Stiegler, who is married to Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan and is a past member of the Bend La Pine School Board, recently recalled how she knocked off on election night clinging to a slim, but seemingly solid lead, only to find out hours later that her opponent, Chuck Burley, a timber industry consultant and former park board member, had overtaken her as the final precincts were tallied. Stiegler was devastated but she didn't dwell on the defeat. Neither, though, did she contemplate a rematch. Yet, here she is four years later, running a no-holds barred campaign against a well financed incumbent, and, if polls are any indication, posing a serious threat on the second go round.

While Burley has done an adequate job of representing Central Oregon, Stiegler brings an agenda that focuses not just on serving local constituents or an ideology of small government, but rather on the betterment of all of Oregon, through improved schools, access to health care, renewable energy and the preservation of Oregon's unique natural and cultural resources. For those reasons we're urging you to cast a vote for Judy Stiegler.

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