AFSCME lobbyist Botkin proposes to change hats
Longtime union lobbyist Mary Botkin has resolved to take a new approach to politics. After 20 years as an advocate for Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Botkin, 57, is running as a Democrat for election to the Oregon House of Representatives from House District 46.
The seat she’s seeking is currently held by Democratic Representative Steve March, who is leaving to run for Multnomah County auditor. House District 46 in Southeast Portland extends from approximately 39th Avenue to I-205, and from I-84 to Southeast Steele. It is a district where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans more than two-to-one. That means the race is likely to be decided in the May 2006 primary, not in the November general election. At least three other candidates have expressed interest.
If elected, she would become part of a group of labor legislators that includes Diane Rosenbaum, Brad Witt, Paul Holvey, Jeff Barker, Mike Schaufler and Mitch Greenlick.
Botkin, a native Oregonian, was born Mary Butts in the town of Lebanon. After her father, a logger, was killed in an on-the-job accident outside Roseburg, her mother moved the family to Portland.
She graduated from Portland’s Jefferson High School in 1966 and “ran away” to join the civil rights and anti-war movements. She later returned to Portland, married union steelworker Michael Botkin and gave birth to Michael Jr.
Then in 1980 came a life-changing event — the closure of Gilmore Steel, and her husband’s layoff. Botkin threw herself into activism in a union-funded campaign to require companies to give employees advance notice of plant closures. That campaign eventually resulted in the federal WARN Act.
She decided she wanted to work in the union movement and got a temporary job at the Oregon Education Association before landing work at AFSCME as an organizer trying to fully unionize Oregon Health & Science University. Cecil Tibbetts, then president of Council 75, told her if she won the campaign, she’d have a job; if she didn’t, she wouldn’t. She did.
After representing workers at OHSU, she joined the council’s lobbying team in 1984. Ten legislative sessions later, she’s tired of working twice as hard to get half as much done, she says. She’s ready to get on the inside.
Botkin says legislators have gotten so caught up in partisan fights over wedge issues that they’ve forgotten what Oregonians really want — family-wage jobs, secure funding for education and the sense that their taxes are spent wisely.
Botkin will formally kick off her campaign at a party at Kirkland Union Manor, 3530 SE 84th Ave, Portland, at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17.
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