By Don McIntosh
Oregon labor had a 72% win rate in the May 18, 2021 special election.
Out of 39 labor-endorsed candidates who faced competition, 28 won. At least 13 of those winning election were union members, including all five graduates of the Oregon Labor Candidate School (OLCS) who ran. OLCS is a union-supported training program for members who want to run for public office.
The May 18 election was mostly about who would lead school boards at K-12 and community college districts, and voter turnout was low: Just 26% of registered voters cast ballots.
But central labor bodies and politically active unions appeared to take a greater interest in school board races this year. The Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) spent more time than in previous years evaluating and endorsing school board candidates. And the Oregon AFL-CIO deployed field staff to help union-endorsed candidates win their elections.
Labor’s election highlights included several wins by union members.
At the Eugene School Board, AFSCME Local 2831 member Laural O’Rourke and former teachers union member Maya Rabasa won election.
And school employee Pally Mann, president of Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) Chapter 34, won a race for Dallas School Board with 55% of the vote.
Three OLCS grads who fell short in their previous attempts to win state legislative office won this time around when seeking school board seats: engineer Sami Al-AbdRabbuh at Corvallis School District, Serin Bussell at Portland Community College, and Cayle Tern for Reynolds School District.
There were disappointments too. Oregon Nurses Association representative Misha Hernandez was defeated in her race for Ashland school board, capturing just 31% of the vote.
And two union electricians fell short, taking third place in three-way races: IBEW Local 48 member Lars Best got just 15% of the vote for North Clackamas School Board, and IBEW Local 932 member Thomas Jennings got 16% of the vote for the board of Lane Community College.
Proving once again that every vote counts, three union-backed contenders won extremely close races for the Salem-Keizer School Board: Ashley Carson Cottingham by 86 votes; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 member Karina Guzmán Ortiz by 310 votes; and farm workers union PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) operations director María Hinojos Pressey by 961 votes.
One race that labor got involved in is still pending: Ashley Hartmeier-Prigg got 6,634 votes, 49% of the total. That put her first in a five-way race for a vacant seat on Beaverton City Council, but not the majority needed to clinch it. She’ll face second place finisher Jerome Sibayan (39%) in a Sept. 21 runoff election.