Union voters help put candidates over top in May primary

SALEM - Union voters helped put Ted Kulongoski over the top in the Democratic primary for governor and elected the state's next labor commissioner, Dan Gardner, and a new state superintendent of public instruction, Susan Castillo.

"This was a clean sweep for our statewide candidates," said Tim Nesbitt, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, who noted that the union-endorsed candidate for the Court of Appeals, David Schuman, also prevailed in a hotly-contested judicial election against Oregonians In Action lobbyist David Hunnicutt.

"Union voters voted," said Nesbitt. "They made informed decisions on the candidates based on information their unions provided at the worksites, in the mail and over the phones."

And they responded to the information by voting in much higher numbers than the general public - as much as 9 percent higher in Multnomah County, according to returns.

During the final four days of voting, union volunteers made more than 10,000 phone calls, distributed 10,000 door hangers in the Portland area and distributed more than 60,000 worksite leaflets statewide "to turn out the union vote for our endorsed candidates," Nesbitt said.

The state labor federation estimates that 25 percent of the votes cast came from union households.

In a statement released at his victory party, Kulongoski thanked "all the unions who supported us early on with their endorsements and financial contributions and, most of all, the hundreds of union members who distributed flyers, staffed your phone banks and went door-to-door in the final days of this election to turn out the union vote. The Oregon AFL-CIO's political operation was critical to our success."

Kulongoski now will face Salem Republican Kevin Mannix in November. Mannix is a former Democratic state legislator who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general. Mannix garnered only 34 percent of the Republican vote in a three-way race with political newcomer Ron Saxton of Portland and Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts of Eugene.

Gardner and Castillo won outright in the primary because each collected more than 50 percent of the votes cast in their non-partisan races. Both are union members who served as Democrats in the Legislature. Gardner is vice president of Portland Electrical Workers Local 48 and Castillo helped organize co-workers at a Eugene television station with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. They don't take office until January 2003.

Six of eight union members running for the State Legislature were victorious, including incumbent Democrats Tony Corcoran of Service Employees Local 503 in Senate Dist. 4; Diane Rosenbaum of Communications Workers Local 7901 in House Dist. 42; Gary Hansen of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 in House Dist. 44; Randy Leonard of Fire Fighters Local 43 in House Dist. 48; and Steve March of the American Federation of Teachers in House Dist. 46.

First-time candidate Bruce Cronk of the Steelworkers ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in House Dist. 2. Two other first-time candidates, Rick Henson of Service Employees Local 49, and Pat Davis of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, lost House races in Eugene (District 12) and The Dalles (District 59), respectively.

Other Oregon AFL-CIO-endorsed candidates winning their primaries were: Bill Morrisette in Senate District 6; Vicki Walker in SD 7; Barbara Ross in SD 8; Bryan Johnson in SD 10; Peter Courtney in SD 11; Charlie Ringo in SD 17; Richard Devlin in SD 19; Frank Shields in SD 24; Rick Metsger in SD 26; and Republican Lenn Hannon in SD 3.

On the House side were Democrats Alan Bates in District 5; Barbara Davidson in Dist. 6; Donald Nordin in Dist. 7; Floyd Prozanski in Dist. 8; Joanne Verger in Dist. 9; Marcia Thompson in Dist. 10; Phil Barnhart in Dist. 11; Robert Ackerman in Dist. 13; Kelley Wirth in Dist. 16; Donald Beale in Dist. 17; Mike Swaim in Dist. 21; Timothy Duerfeldt in Dist. 24; Mark Hass in Dist. 27; Jeff Barker in Dist. 28; Chuck Riley in Dist. 29; Aron Carleson in Dist. 30; Betsy Johnson in Dist. 31; Elaine Hopson in Dist. 32; Mitch Greenlick in Dist. 33; Brad Avakian in Dist. 34; Mary Nolan in Dist. 36; Greg Macpherson in Dist. 38; Martha Schrader in Dist. 39; Dave Hunt in Dist. 40; Carolyn Tomei in Dist. 41; Deborah Kafoury in Dist. 43; Jackie Dingfelder in Dist. 45; Laurie Monnes Anderson in Dist. 50; and Jan Lee in Dist. 51.

Two candidates opposed by the state labor federation - Republicans Bob Tiernan in Senate District 19 and Cedric Hayden in House District 7 - had split decisions. Tiernan, an outspoken opponent of organized labor in general and public employees in particular, won a three-person race and will face Democrat Richard Devlin in November. Hayden was defeated by Representative Jeff Kruse in a race that pitted two incumbents who moved into the newly created district to run for the seat.

Also winning Democratic primary races were labor-endorsed Earl Blumenauer, David Wu, Darlene Hooley and Peter DeFazio for re-election to the U.S. House, and Bill Bradbury for U.S. Senate.

A statewide ballot measure involving bio-medical research at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Southwest Portland passed handily. Measure 11 allows the state to seek lower-interest bonds for construction at OHSU, which should result in 400-500 new jobs. Employees there are members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 328.

Several union-supported bond and levy measures fell victim to Oregon's "double-majority" rule. Voters supported union-backed levies to fund Portland Public Parks and Multnomah County libraries by about 2-1 margins, but because fewer than 50 percent of the electorate cast ballots the levies did not pass. The same fate befell a levy for Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

The Portland City Council will re-run the parks levy in November, when the double-majority rule doesn't apply. In the Portland tri-county area, Measure 26-11 to repeal Metro's housing density requirements went down in flames. A counter measure crafted by Metro with the help and endorsement of AFSCME Local 3580 (Measure 26-29), passed by a wide margin.

Labor-endorsed Bernie Guisto was elected sheriff of Multnomah County; Brian Newman was elected to Metro in District 2; Diane Linn was re-elected Multnomah County chair; and Judi Mehrens finished second in an eight-person race for Clackamas County clerk to qualify for a November runoff.

June 7, 2002 issue

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