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For House District 53: Gene Whisnant 


Former President Richard Nixon once famously announced that "you won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore" after losing the California governor's race. Well Gene Whisnant could easily have uttered almost those same words about his relationship with this paper. Whisnant has served four terms in the state Legislature and has yet to earn the Source's endorsement. But to his credit, Gene shows up every two years and makes his case. Well this year, we're breaking tradition and offering our endorsement of Mr. Whisnant for state representative.

We believe the Legislature's biggest challenges lie ahead of its members and, as such, we're going with the more experienced of the two candidates to help shepherd our state through some of the most difficult times in our history. The state faces a nearly $2 billion shortfall in the next biennium and its entitlement programs, including PERS and medical costs, are taking on water fast, threatening to sink the entire budgetary ship. Unless these problems are addressed immediately through a combination of economic growth and austerity measures, we'll soon be seeing cutbacks to crucial services, including education and public safety. We still have our concerns about Mr. Whisnant, particularly on social issues like abortion (he's opposed to it as a legal right), gun control, gay marriage and prayer in school. We won't get into the nuances of Mr. Whisnant's positions on these issues, but suffice to say, they don't square with our own. Yet Whisnant has been a consistent and effective advocate on issues that have a more direct bearing on the well-being of his constituents, including education, public safety funding and veterans' rights. There are times that we think Whisnant gets too provincial, such as when introducing a bill to change Oregon's state song from "Oregon, My Oregon" to a song penned by Redmond's Lindy Gravelle and a bill that codified the ticketing and arrest authority of his neighborhood police department in Sunriver. And we'd like to see Whisnant break rank from his Republican peers more often to support legislation that benefits all of Oregon, not just the special interest groups who spend so much time lobbying legislators.

On the flip side, we like Mr. Whisnant's leadership on Oregon's destination resort reform efforts that will hopefully put the industry back on track, reining in the sagebrush subdivisions without cutting off a potentially lucrative form of economic development when the economy rebounds. We also like his ideas on capitol gains taxes, which would allow businesses that reinvest their profits to take a tax write off. That's an approach that rewards investment in Oregon without mortgaging our financial stability, provided the state does a better job of policing it than it did the energy tax credit program. There's a lot of work to be done in Salem, and the Legislature needs to do a better job of working with the governor, whomever that may be, to make sure it gets done. But we think Whisnant is the best person for the job, right now.

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