Retired cop Jeff Barker labor's choice in new House District 28

He has stared down the barrel of a shotgun, dodged M-80 firecrackers, been spat on and cursed at. So it's no wonder that retired Police Lt. Jeff Barker feels he can hold his own as a lawmaker in Salem.

Barker is the labor-endorsed Democrat running in newly-redrawn House District 28. The district covers areas of Beaverton and Aloha from Highway 217 to SW 209th Ave. and from SW Tualatin Valley Highway south to SW Hart Road.

Barker served in police work for 31 years. Most of those years were with the Portland Police Bureau, where he worked as a street cop, primarily out of Southeast Precinct. He started his career as a state trooper with aspirations of becoming a game warden.

He was elected president of his union - the Portland Police Association - for one term and was president of the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association until his retirement six months ago.

He spent 15 years as editor of the PPA's Rap Sheet newspaper and served on the union's Executive Board for 20 years and on the Police and Fire Pension Board for more than a decade.

"I really don't look forward to this, but it has to be done," said Barker. "I'm worried about the schools, primarily. My kids got a good public education and see things slipping away."

Barker has been married to his wife Victoria for 35 years and they have two daughters. Heidi, the oldest, is a deputy district attorney for Multnomah County, and Heather is a journey-level electrician and member of Electrical Workers Local 48.

Barker said his experiences as a contract negotiator, union leader, street cop, lieutenant, pension trustee, Marine, college graduate and average citizen are reasons why voters should elect him to the House - and why he has received so many endorsements.

"I know how to work with all types of people ... even those I don't always agree with," he said.

Barker has collected nearly every labor endorsement, including those of the Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council and State Fire Fighters Association. He's also backed by the Chiefs of Police Association, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and many other groups.

He said the record fifth special session to try to find a way to eliminate a nearly half-billion-dollar budget deficit is very frustrating for him as a first-time candidate. He said he doesn't have all the answers, but he knows he can work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to assist in finding solutions.

"One of the big problems in Salem is half the people in the Legislature think they're going to be the next governor, and they don't want to make the tough decisions," he said. "I don't want to be governor. I want go down there for a couple of terms, offer my ideas, then go back to being retired."

Barker supports prevailing wage laws, especially when they involve enterprise zones and tax breaks for big business. He believes employers shouldn't interfere with a workers' right to freely choose a union, and would like to see a ban on the use of public funds used to influence worker decisions regarding union representation.

Barker supports Measure 25 to increase the state's minimum wage to $6.90 an hour.

He said he opposes attempts to end land-use laws that protect Oregon's forest and farmland.

Barker believes changes must be made to the Public Employees Retirement System, but he opposes turning it into a 401(k)-type defined contribution plan.

"Maybe we could start by firing the entire PERS board and change the actuaries for telling them they could do what they did," he said.

A native Oregonian, Barker has a bachelor of science degree in history from Portland State University, where he worked his way through college as a janitor, in a grocery store, and at a warehouse.

Since Labor Day he has been hard at work doorbelling in his precinct and trying to raise campaign funds. Democratic Party leaders tell him $200,000 is the magic number. To donate to his campaign, send checks to: Friends of Jeff Barker, P.O. Box 6751, Aloha, Oregon 97007.

Ironically, his Republican opponent has a similar last name. Keith Parker is a black business attorney and former Nike employee in Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan. Parker, a newcomer to politics, toes the Republican line, favoring friendlier land-use policies for business and landowners, providing more alternatives for students and cutting capital gains taxes.

Parker is heavily endorsed by business groups, including the Independent Electrical Contractors Association and the National Federation of Independent Business.

September 20, 2002 issue

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