For union-backed campaigns, mostly wins


OREGON’S NEXT LABOR COMMISSIONER As an attorney fighting for workers, Christina Stephenson saw the state labor bureau’s shortcomings. Now she’ll have a chance to revive it. | PHOTO BY DON McINTOSH

Communicating with members, turning out volunteers, contributing to campaigns … labor organizations had a real impact on election night, resulting mostly in wins—in Oregon and Southwest Washington anyway. 

OREGON GOVERNOR Electing Tina Kotek was the top priority for Oregon labor this year. Labor-affiliated political action committees (PACs) spent nearly $5.2 million to support her Democratic campaign for governor, with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) ($2.7 million) leading the pack. That support helped Kotek win with 47% of the vote, compared to 43% for Republican Christine Drazan and 9% for independent Betsy Johnson. Across a decade of Oregon House leadership, Kotek was a union ally. Now she’ll be in charge of the executive branch, with the power to make appointments and shape how legislation is implemented.

OREGON LABOR COMMISSIONER Workers’ side labor attorney Christina Stephenson cruised to victory, winning 61% of the vote to 38% for restaurant owner Cheri Helt. Starting January, she’ll work to rebuild and re-energize the Bureau of Labor and Industries, the sleepy and underfunded agency that’s in charge of enforcing wage and hour and civil rights laws and overseeing state-certified apprenticeship programs. 

NEW LINEUP FOR CONGRESS In Oregon, union-backed Democrat Val Hoyle won her campaign for Congress (51%), and so did Andrea Salinas (with 50%). They’ll join incumbent union allies Suzanne Bonamici (68%) and Earl Blumenauer (70%), who won reelection easily. But Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who beat incumbent Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary, fell short with 49%, losing by less than 7,000 votes to Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer. 

In Southwest Washington, union-backed auto shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a Democrat, beat Republican Joe Kent by just 3,000 votes. She replaces Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was knocked out in the primary.

Labor’s Democratic allies will find themselves in the minority in the U.S. House, where Republicans looked likely to retake the majority as of when this issue went to press.

71,500 CALLS. 72,500 DOORS KNOCKED. 1,200 VOLUNTEER SHIFTS. The Oregon AFL-CIO’s 2022 electoral campaign made a difference to union-endorsed candidates. So it’s no wonder organized labor occupied a place of honor at the Oregon Democratic Party’s election night celebration at the Hyatt Regency at the Oregon Convention Center. Above, on a stage filled with union officers, staff and activists, Oregon AFL-CIO president Graham Trainor told the crowd that the labor movement is not just focused on union matters, but on all kinds of issues that matter to working people. | PHOTO BY DON McINTOSH

OREGON SENATE SEIU Local 503 member Deb Patterson won a hard-fought re-election campaign in SD 10 (Salem) with 53% of the vote. And union-backed incumbent Mark Meek squeaked to victory with 50.3% of the vote. But nurses union member Melissa Busch went down with 43% to Republican Suzanne Weber in the seat that was held by Betsy Johnson. And Democrat Richard Walsh failed to unseat Republican incumbent Kim Thatcher. 

OREGON BALLOT MEASURES Ballot Measure 111, declaring a constitutional right to affordable health care, narrowly passed with 51% of the vote. And Ballot Measure 113, which prohibits politicians who participate in walk-outs from running for re-election, passed overwhelmingly by 68%. The measure was placed on the ballot substantially due to the efforts of SEIU Local 503.

CLACKAMAS COUNTY  For the labor community there was heartbreak in Clackamas County as Sonya Fischer, an enthusiastic friend of labor, narrowly lost re-election with 49% of the vote. Paul Savas easily outpolled Libra Forde 56% to 43%, both backed by unions. One win all of labor could be proud of was Catherine McMullen, a member of AFSCME Local 88. She’ll be Clackamas County clerk after winning 64% against foul-up-plagued incumbent Sherry Hall. 

MULTNOMAH COUNTY Jessica Vega Pederson defeated Sharon Meieran with 54% of the vote. Both candidates were union-endorsed, although Vega Pederson received the lion’s share of labor support.

CITY OF PORTLAND Rene Gonzalez defeated incumbent Jo Ann Hardesty with 53% of the vote for City Council. Either candidate would have been a win for some in the labor community: Each received half a dozen union endorsements. And Measure 26-228 (a charter reform to change city government structure) passed with 58% of the vote. The measure, which was endorsed by four unions, expands Portland’s City Council from five to 12 positions, introduces ranked choice voting and  district representation.

CITY OF GRESHAM Labor-backed incumbent Eddy Morales won the election with 47% of the vote.

CITY OF HILLSBORO Labor-supported Beach Pace won her race for city council with 58% of the vote. And so did Olivia Alcaire, with 58% of the vote.

WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE There is sorrow in labor circles in Southwest Washington. All four union members who made first-time runs as Democrats for state house lost their races. In Skamania County’s LD 17, admittedly tough territory for Democrats, union nurse Terri Niles fell short with 47% of the vote, and retired Machinists rep Joe Kear ended with 45% of the vote. But the same results held in the 18th legislative district in Clark County, where union school teacher John Zingale got 48% and union nurse Duncan Camacho got 45%. At least incumbent union member Monica Stonier won re-election in LD 49 in Vancouver, and so did union ally Sharon Wylie; both got 62% of the vote. 

CLARK COUNTY Among union-endorsed candidates, Chartisha Roberts lost her race for Clark County Council with 45% voter support, but Sue Marshall won hers with 51% of the vote. Greg Kimsey won his race for Clark County Auditor with 67% of the vote. Nancy Barnes won her race for Clark P.U.D. by 66%. And John Horch won Clark County Sheriff with 55% of the vote.

BALLOT MEASURES AROUND THE NATION In Tennessee, a measure to add the anti-union “right to work” law to the state constitution passed by 70%. Illinois voters went the opposite direction, voting 59% to establish a “right to organize” in the state constitution. Nebraskans voted to raise the state’s minimum wage incrementally to $15 by 2026.  So did Nevadans, raising it to $12 per hour for all workers by 2024.


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