A handful of union members are running for office on Oregon’s May 19 primary ballot, and thanks to the Oregon Labor Candidate School, they know how to campaign. The school trains union members in the nuts and bolts of running for public office. Here are some of the school’s graduates who are running, along with a list of endorsing unions.
Senate District 10
When union home care provider Deb Patterson challenged Republican State Sen. Jackie Winters two years ago in Salem’s Senate District 10, she got 46% of the vote against the longtime incumbent. Winters died in 2019, and Republican State Rep Denyc Boles was appointed as replacement. Now Patterson is seeking the seat again, and her campaign may be one of the best chances for progressive Democrats to pick up a seat in the Senate, where so many labor-backed proposals have died in recent years for lack of a vote or two. Patterson is a congregationalist minister, a longtime health administrator, an active member of SEIU Local 503, and a believer in universal health care. Her Democratic opponent in the May 19 primary didn’t even file a Voters’ Pamphlet statement, so the real race to watch will be in November, when she expects to face Boles. Boles has been on the opposite side of the union movement on virtually every vote, and in 2020 she took part in the Republican walkout that shut down the legislative session. Oregon AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, Teamsters, OEA, PCUN, SEIU, UFCW DebPattersonOR.org
House District 33
Two OLCS grads—Andy Saultz and Serin Bussell—are running against each other to succeed retiring State Rep. Mitch Greenlick in House District 33. Neither has a union at work. Instead they’re voluntary associate members of American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Some local unions are backing another candidate in the Democratic primary, attorney Christina Stephenson.
Andy Saultz, an education professor at Pacific University, was formerly a teachers union member in Michigan. He grew up in the district, and his campaign knocked on 20,000 doors before the epidemic hit. OSEA, Insulators 36, Glaziers 740, United Farm Workers, and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the Teamsters AndyForOregon.org
Serin Bussell worked in procurement for three years at Metro, and served as a shop steward there with AFSCME Local 3580. She left to run Charles Gallia’s unsuccessful campaign for state senate, and then served as chief of staff for State Sen. Jeff Golden. AFT, AFSCME SerinForStateRep.com
House District 35
Dacia Grayber is a Tualatin Valley fire fighter and an active member of IAFF Local 1660. She’s running for the seat held by Margaret Doherty, who’s retiring. Her primary opponent filed no Voters’ Pamphlet statement. Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon Building Trades, AFSCME, AFT, IAFF, LiUNA, OEA, OFNHP, ONA, OSEA, SEIU, UFCW DaciaForOregon.com
House District 36
PSU IT specialist Rob Fullmer is a union steward and member of the SEIU Local 503 executive board. He’s running for the seat Jennifer Williamson vacated for her short run for secretary of state. Most unions are backing another candidate, longtime teachers union lobbyist Laurie Wimmer. AFT, SEIU RobForOregon.com
Salem City Council, Ward 7
Vanessa Nordyke –a member of AFSCME Local 1085– is an attorney for the Oregon Department of Justice, representing state employees who are sued on the job. She’s also the immediate past president of the Oregon State Bar. She was appointed to a vacant city council seat in October. Now she faces a challenge from hospital finance director Reid Sund, a conservative who turned down one union’s request for a candidate interview. AFSCME, IAFF, SEIU ElectVanessaNordyke.com
INTERESTED IN RUNNING FOR OFFICE OR KNOW A FELLOW UNION MEMBER WHO SHOULD?
Oregon Labor Candidate School is taking applications May 1 to Aug. 1 for trainings in the Portland area and the Salem/Eugene area. The day-long classes run October to March one Saturday a month. Get more details about it at oregonlaborcandidateschool.org.