From the governor’s race to a new Congressional district seat, Oregonians cast their votes on key races in the primary which wrapped yesterday. But this year, ballots postmarked by May 17 will still be counted, leaving the outcome of some close contests still unclear. We hear from Tina Kotek, former Oregon Speaker of the House, who won the Democratic nomination in the governor’s race. We also hear from unaffiliated candidate and former Oregon state senator Betsy Johnson, who will likely compete against Kotek. Other projected primary winners we’ll also hear from: Val Hoyle in the U.S. Congressional District 4 race; Andrea Salinas and Mike Erickson in the Congressional District 6 race; Christina Stephenson in the state Bureau of Labor and Industries race; and Nicole Morrissey O’Donnell, who is poised to become Multnomah County’s first female sheriff. OPB political reporter Sam Stites will also join us to talk about the “Greater Idaho” votes in three counties.
This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB, I’m Dave Miller. We’re going to spend the hour today talking about Oregon’s primary election. It is all over, but the counting, although there is still a fair amount of counting left to do, especially in Clackamas County. But we do have some clarity, including the likely candidates for the Oregon Governor’s race and a number of Congressional ones. So over the next hour, we’re going to hear from some of the high profile candidates in addition to the new Multnomah County Sheriff and the candidate for Labor Commissioner who got the most votes. We start today with former House Speaker Tina Kotek, who will be the Democratic nominee for Oregon Governor. Tina Kotek, welcome back to Think Out Loud.
Tina Kotek: Thank you Dave, good to be back.
Miller: It’s good to have you on your campaign, yesterday, put out what seemed to be some enthusiasm dampening statements saying, among other things, you know, ‘Go slow, everybody, Tobias Read is a formidable opponent.’ Were you personally expecting a closer result?
Kotek: I think we had a great shot of winning. And what that memo was about was just really explaining to folks that I have had to work hard to gain endorsements, gain support, raise the money, and what we saw in last night’s results were people got behind my campaign. They were looking for a proven leader who can get things done and I’m excited and very thankful for all the voters who supported me in this campaign.
Miller: What do you think that Tobias Read brought to this race?
Kotek: I think Treasurer Read is a very thoughtful leader who cares about the state, just like I do and we have very similar values and I think we had a very good debate, and I would also say the other candidates are great; that’s what you want to see in a primary. But now we have a nominee. I’m the nominee for November. And Democrats are going to be unified to win in November because there is so much at stake this year and in this election, and that’s what we’re gonna be focused on.
Miller: I want to turn to that in just a second – what’s at stake and how you’re going to be approaching the general election – but I’m just curious after a longish career, in politics, in Oregon politics, what it means to you, personally, to be the Democratic nominee for Governor?
Kotek: For me, it’s always been about solving problems and working with people, and I am energized and excited about the possibility of doing this in a different role, and being a Governor who can be that coach and cheerleader and manager to make sure we can solve the problems that are facing our state. That is, it’s humbling. And I’m excited about the opportunity.
Miller: What issues do you want to make the General Election about? What do you want to be talking about, if you, if you got to frame the debate?
Kotek: Well, it’s about what we’re hearing from voters. They know there’s a lot at stake. The Supreme Court wants to take us back 50 years and restrict abortion access. That is a top of mind issue for Oregonians across the state, not just Democrats. I’m hearing about how we solve our homeless crisis, take on gun violence, climate change, making sure people have access to mental health and addiction services. Those are the issues that Oregonians are bringing up. And like I said, I’m a proven leader who can bring people together to solve problems. And I am always going to fight up, fight and stand with Oregonians to get things done. And particularly, you know, 20 years ago, I was at the Oregon Food Bank. A lot of those issues, you know, they are persistent issues. I’m going to stand up for our working families who are struggling to pay their bills right now. That’s what I do, that’s what I’ve been doing and I will continue to do that as our next Governor.
Miller: This is going to be the first Gubernatorial election in Oregon in recent memory with a serious, well-financed Independent candidate. How do you plan to approach the General Election with that, specifically, in mind?
Kotek: Well, you know what’s exciting about this General, is this is going to be historic, if there are three women running to be the next Governor, first of all, that’s exciting, in and of itself, even if we don’t all agree on the issues. The way I won this primary is building a very large, diverse coalition of Oregonians who know me as a leader, know what I can get done, and that same coalition is going to be supporting me into the November election, environmental community, the choice community, labor community, all the folks who know that we have to stand up and move our state forward and I’ll have the money to compete. And I also have a lot of people power and grassroots support going into November.
Miller: The standard political thinking is in a primary, you try to attract your base and in a General Election you move a little bit more to the center. Do you think that’s still going to hold- and I should note that Betsey Johnson – who we’re gonna be talking to right after you, or perhaps we’ll talk to her, if not right then, then at some point in this hour – but do you think that basic political calculation still holds – the move to the center?
Kotek: I think what I’m hearing from Oregonians, and this is not just Democrats, I talked to all kinds of people, they’re looking for people to solve problems and get things done. That’s why I’m in this work, why I’m running for Governor, our government should function at the highest level possible to make sure people have what they need, and there are challenges out there, and you just can’t talk about them, you have to be able to solve problems and I have a solid track record of doing that and I think that’s what’s going to resonate with voters in November.
Miller: Tina Kotek, thanks very much.
Kotek: Thank you, Dave, have a good day.
Miller: You, too. That’s Tina Kotek, Democratic nominee in the Oregon Governor’s race. Former Oregon Speaker of the House. We go, now, to Christina Stephenson, a Civil Rights Attorney and the candidate for Commissioner of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry, [BOLI]’ who has gotten the most votes, very close to 50%, although last I looked, Christina Stephenson, not quite there, yet. I’m curious how you’re feeling right now?
Christina Stephenson: Oh, my gosh, Dave, I’m just absolutely thrilled. I mean, first, to be on OPB, you know, as someone born and raised in Oregon, it is just, it’s so humbling to receive such overwhelming support. I mean, I am just absolutely thrilled with where we are in this race.
Miller: And, just to be clear, this is a race where if somebody doesn’t get just over 50%, there will be a runoff. And at this point we’re still, it’s still too close to call, although you have, you do have a sizable lead and we’ll just see where, where the votes are left to come from. Are you emotionally ready for a General Election, doing everything again?
Stephenson: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I got into this race because I really believe that Oregon would be the best place to live and work in this country, and, you know, thousands of Oregonians told us they agree. We need an Oregon that puts working families and small businesses first, and I’m really proud of the support we’ve received throughout the state, including from rural communities. I think we all know that working families and small businesses are struggling with rising costs and we’ve just heard loud and clear – they want a Labor Commissioner who’s laser focused on expanding job training and apprenticeships and can help ease the labor shortages and just help anyone who’s willing to work hard, get a raise, whether or not they have a college degree.
Miller: Some Oregonians may be most familiar with BOLI as the Office that went after the Bakery that refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple. Can you give us a broader understanding of what Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry does?
Stephenson: Yeah, absolutely. So, as I think you mentioned at the top, I’m a Civil Rights and Employment Attorney and small business owner. And so I’ve been working with the Bureau for over a decade now, and the things that the Bureau of Labor and Industry does, is it enforces civil rights in the workplace, in housing and in public spaces. It also enforces Wage and Hour laws. That’s your meal and rest breaks from, also enforces prevailing wage law, helps employers with the technical assistance they need to comply with the laws and then finally helps to make sure that Oregon has a future ready workforce. So, with our apprenticeship programs regulating the apprenticeship programs.
Miller: Can you give us a sense for how your professional experience as a Civil Rights Attorney, where you would deal with BOLI from the outside, I’m curious about the perspective you feel like it gave you that will help you on the inside, that would help you on the inside.
Stephenson: You know, when I think about my experience, one of the things I think about is like I started my business at the kitchen table with my son, three months old, and I have grown that business, I’m someone who actually added employees during the ‘great resignation.’ And so my perspective is not just going to be as a Civil Rights Attorney that has represented both workers and employers, but as a Business Owner, as somebody who can help make the legal framework that we have more accessible, because if we have more people who understand how to comply with the laws, then we’re not even getting to the complaints further on down the road.
Miller: How has the pandemic affected the way you think about the job of Oregon’s Labor Commissioner?
Stephenson: You know, I think the pandemic has really put in stark relief, a few things that, number one, that BOLI really does play a vital role in our workplaces. So for example, we saw when early on in the pandemic that BOLI was able to be responsive to updating their regulations to make clear that people whose children were not able to go to school, they could be protected by OFLA [Oregon Family Leave Act], we had so… the wildfires and BOLI put out regulations responsive to that. We had, of course, a number of issues with vaccines and BOLI was very responsive about giving people the information they needed to navigate those questions. So BOLI is incredibly relevant and it’s only going to become more relevant as we’ve got $20 million coming in through the future, ‘Ready Oregon’ package into the apprenticeship programs, in order to expand our apprenticeship model in things like Nursing, Healthcare, Manufacturing, because it is, it’s such a beautiful model when people earn, when they learn. It’s a much more accessible pathway into these family wage jobs that we need.
Miller: Christina Stephenson, thanks very much for joining us.
Stephenson: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
Miller: Likewise. That’s Christina Stephenson, a Civil Rights Attorney, and at this point, the leading candidate in terms of the vote count as it stands now, to be the new Commissioner of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry. We do turn now to Betsy Johnson, former Oregon State Senator, going to be running most likely, assuming a couple I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, for Oregon Governor. Betsy Johnson, welcome back to Think Out Loud.
Johnson: Good morning, thank you.
Miller: What has it been like, to sort of watch from the sidelines during this primary?
Johnson: Well, it’s been interesting. We’re going to come onto the ballot through the power of people’s signatures, which I think is profoundly meaningful. Rrunning with the traditional party labels and that’s the whole premise of this campaign. The biggest change that Oregon can make this year is to elect a pro jobs, pro law enforcement, pro choice Independent Governor that is loyal only to the people, not to any political party or any of the political extremes.
Miller: You did, though, serve as a Democrat in the Legislature for 20 years in the House and then the Senate. What makes you not a Democrat now?
Johnson: Well, let’s be honest, I’ve been a Republican. I’ve been a Democrat and I’m running as an Oregonian. I had a front row seat to watching the extremes of the political parties just tear at the fabric of our beloved state and I think I could have been easily reelected in my Senate seat, the last time I was the Republican, I was a Democrat and I was the Independent nominee and had 82% of the vote. But as a native Oregonian, I just couldn’t continue to sit by and watch the extremes of the political parties throw us into partisan paralysis and the kind of infighting that Oregonians are just flat, sick of.
Miller: What went through your mind last night when you saw the results, and got a pretty clear sense for who your opponents will be, that there is still some question about the republican nominee, Christine Drazan is leading right now, and I should say that we did ask if she would join us today, her campaign said that she wanted to hold off because of the lack of clarity, but there is some clarity now. What do you think about you and your Democratic and likely Republican opponents as three people all going at it?
Johnson: Sure, Tina Kotek is in my opinion and in the opinion of others, more ‘Kate Brown’ than Kate Brown. I mean, if you’re happy with things how they are now, you should probably support Tina, I think she’s way too far to the left, and Christine Drazen is not going to end the Republicans’ 40 year losing streak, the same year that women are losing the fundamental right to choose. She’s way too far to the right. And so the whole premise of this candidacy is to try to bring Democrats and Republicans together, take the best ideas from both parties, hammer out solutions and get to a place where Oregonians feel as though they’re being heard and enfranchised by a political system that many people feel has left them behind because of the partisan rigidity and lack of willingness to compromise and come together on solutions that are durable for all Oregonians, not just Urban Oregonians, but rural Oregonians – people that make their living in the natural resource economy as well as in an urban setting. That’s the whole reason that I’m running.
Miller: What are the top issues for you? What do you want to make this election about?
Johnson: Well, a variety of things, not the least of which is dealing with the homeless problem and crime. Our education system is failing too many kids. We’ve got a housing affordability crisis because we’ve got a supply crisis. Our well-fed Big Government has failed to show up when Oregonians need them, for example, in getting unemployment checks out or rent relief checks out. And finally, we’ve got to stop disrespecting job creators and jobs. We’ve got to get our economy going again. We’ve got to get people back into the labor force. And so those are top line the issues I’m the most concerned about.
Miller: You’ve raised more than $5 million so far, do you have a ballpark sense for how expensive this race is going to be, in total, in the end.
Johnson: Sure, these are going to be expensive races. Just look how much money has been spent in Oregon so far on some of the Congressional races. Unfortunately, the Gubernatorial race is going to be expensive. The candidates are going to be out raising money. I’m guessing it’s going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million dollars, per candidate.
Miller: You say, ‘unfortunately.’ What do you mean by that? How do you feel about the fact that tens of millions of dollars are going to be spent in the process of Oregonians deciding who the Chief Executive should be?
Johnson: Well, you’ve just stated the problem. We’ve got a lot of pressing issues in this state that could profit from having the kind of money they’re going to be spent on these campaigns. But we all have to get our message out. We all have to explain to voters why we’re the best choice, in my case, a historic choice. So this would be the first time in the country that we would elect a woman Governor. That’s never happened before. And I think that that is, right now, exactly what Oregon needs to stop all this partisan fighting and paralysis. And let’s get to a point where we can get people around the table and get the kind of common sense, no nonsense solutions that Oregonians yearn for, everywhere you turn in this state, we’ve got significant problems and those problems need to be addressed by bringing people together, not sending us back into our partisan corners.
Miller: I may have misunderstood what you’re saying there, but obviously we have a woman who’s Governor right now. So maybe I misheard you?
Johnson: And maybe I misunderstood your question. This is a chance to elect an Independent woman.
Miller: An Independent. Sorry, someone not connected to a political party…
Johnson: That’s what I meant. If I misspoke, I apologize. But I mean, this is a historic opportunity and it’s not lost on me that we’ve got three women that will be vying for the top job in all probability, depending on what the Clackamas County returns are. I was just reflecting back…often, I’ve been the first or the only woman in the room. It was 42 years ago today at this very hour that I was the only woman flying a helicopter on Mount St. Helens in assisting the work that was going on up there and getting out the visual pictures for the International and National media. I ran a helicopter company for 20 years and all of our ships were deployed, working with the scientists and the News Media, filming what was happening on that historic day 42 years ago. So, I think the fact that we’ve got three women in this race is going to be interesting. You’ve got the choice between extreme partisans on both sides and an Independent woman trying to bring Oregonians together to get our beloved State out of the ditch.
Miller: Betsy Johnson. We will talk again. And I look forward to a more in depth conversation closer to the General Election. Thanks very much.
Johnson: Thank you for having me.
Miller: That’s former Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson, who is going to be running for Oregon Governor. We turn to Andrea Salinas now, a State Representative from Lake Oswego, the Democratic nominee for Oregon’s new Sixth Congressional District. Andrea Salinas, welcome back.
Andrea Salinas: Thank you, Dave and thanks for having me.
Miller: How are you feeling today after last night?
Salinas: I feel good, and I feel just really grateful to the voters of the 6th Congressional District, the Democratic voters who I just refused to let money influence their votes. So, yeah, I feel like democracy has prevailed.
Miller: You were elected to the Legislature three times, if I’m not mistaken. So far, how has this Congressional race been different for you? The experience of running for federal office?
Salinas: Okay, yeah, I will say I’ve been elected twice and I was appointed once, similar, I think to maybe others on this on your call today. My first race in 2018, I didn’t have a primary opponent. I didn’t in 2020, either. And in my first race, I had the Independent Working Families Party, Democratic Party and Republican Party nominations. So I would say, this was obviously different. It was a nine way primary. It was, like, a completely open seat. There was no incumbent. There was a lot of money in the race and I haven’t, in my races previously, I had not experienced that kind of spending on a single race. And so this was, as I understood it, like the third most expensive primary in the nation, which is a lot of money that was being spent here.
Miller: What do you plan to focus on in the general election?
Salinas: I plan to focus on the issues that I have been talking about with voters, that I think voters really care about in this District. For me that has been access to abortion, making sure that women continue to have the right to choose whether and when to start a family, fighting for climate change and a healthier planet, making sure that clean energy, jobs and renewable energy is brought to Oregon and across the US and then making sure that healthcare is accessible and affordable, in addition to bringing down the cost of prescription drug prices, I think this affects um families budgets as well as small businesses, and their bottom lines and profits and their ability to attract workers. I think the same things that I’ve been kind of talking about as I’ve been talking with voters through the Democratic primary.
Miller: Just briefly, like your Republican opponent, your likely Republican opponent, Mike Erickson, who we’ll hear from in the second half of the show, you don’t currently live in the District; would you move if you were elected?
Salinas: You know, Dave, I have been delivering for Oregonians in this District for a number of years. I have been working with the folks who represent unions, the folks in the Salem area, the SCIU. workers, the farm workers who I helped to make sure they were included in the Minimum Wage Bill back in 2016. More recently I worked with the Agriculture Industry as well as the Farm Workers to figure out how we increase workers’ pay after 40 hours of work to make sure they get overtime pay. So I would say I have been delivering for these workers for a number of years, since even before I got to the State Legislature and I think that’s what the voters really care about.
Miller: Andrea, thanks very much for joining us.
Salinas: Thank you.
Miller: Andrea Salinas is state representative from Lake Oswego, the Democratic nominee for Oregon’s newly created 6th Congressional District. Coming up after a break, we’ll talk to more Congressional candidates and the new Multnomah County Sheriff. We’re also going to turn to the ballot counting situation in Clackamas County.
Dave Miller: From the Gert Boyle Studio at OPB, this is Think Out Loud, I’m Dave Miller. If you’re just tuning in, we’ve been talking, today, to some of the winners and leading candidates from Oregon’s Primary, but there has been a glaring delay in vote counting. It is in Clackamas County where a printing error – blurry barcodes – has made it impossible for the scanning machines to read a ton of ballots, Gary Schmidt is the County Administrator for Clackamas County, meaning he is the Chief Executive Officer of the County, and he joins us with some of the details. Gary Smith, welcome.
Gary Schmidt: Hello, Dave. Thank you very much.
Miller: Thanks for making yourself available. What’s the latest you’ve heard from election officials in the county?
Schmidt: Yes, our first count of election ballots occurred last night. Approximately 10,000 ballots have been counted so far, way below, of course, the number of ballots received. We are helping to make sure that we have the number of election staff necessary to count the ballots as quickly, yet as accurately as possible. Just today, I worked collaboratively with the County Clerk, Sherrie Hall, who is an independently elected official and offered her the support of up to 200 County employees who will be redeployed to work in the Elections’ Office starting tomorrow, May 19, for the next two weeks, as long as it takes to help make sure the ballot count is done as quickly and accurately as possible.
Miller: In a statement last night, the Secretary of State said ‘In recent days, my office and other counties have offered extra personnel to help with timely reporting. We eagerly await a response from County Elections Officials on how we can aid in the timely processing of results,’ she added, ‘I’m disappointed that we have not seen more urgency from Election Officials in Clackamas County.’ Do you have a sense for if Election Officials, there brought in extra personnel in advance?
Schmidt: Yes, actually. And that also was the case of County employees. I worked collaboratively with the Clerk, Sherrie Hall and we brought in County employees to support the Election workers last week. So we have been doing that. And yes, the Clerk Hall did let me know of Secretary of State Fagan’s offer of support. And at this point we’re going to use our County employees first, to support the County temporary workers who already support Elections. And then if even more support is needed, we’ll certainly reach out to the Secretary of State. We also, unfortunately, we have a space limitation on how many workers can work at one time. The Election Room of course, as you know, has to be a secure facility with cameras observable by the public. And for us at the County, we can only sit about 50 people at a time in that counting room. So we do have a number of volunteers or people willing to help. We just don’t have the space to bring them all in at once. That’s why we’re adding extra shifts, two shifts a day. Almost 12 hours of work a day, including weekends. So we can get through this counting as quickly and accurately as possible.
Miller: For people who haven’t seen, for example, the Youtube from a County meeting last week, where the Elections Officer actually explained in some detail, the manual process here, can you just give our listeners, since, you know, folks all around the state are waiting on this, this manual process right now, which is relatively complicated- or I should say involved, It’s not complicated. But can you describe the copying over and the observation and then the computer system that then follows?
Schmidt: Absolutely. And I myself volunteered to work in Elections last week. So I did the duplication of ballots myself. It is a very specific process outlined by Oregon State Law. But very quickly, there are 2 workers who must be from different political parties, and one person reads the damaged ballot, the second person will mark the name of the person that the voter originally voted for on the second duplication, duplicative ballot, and then the ballots are switched and the other person reads back what was written and then it was confirmed that was what the intent of the voter was. There’s a code written on each ballot, it is recorded and then we go on to the next ballot. So it’s very, very thorough. It’s observed by two people as well as Election Volunteers who are roaming the tables kind of observing all of this going on. It’s a very thorough, accurate, process. It just takes time to do it.
Miller: Do you have some sense for how long it’s going to take to copy each of these one by one? And then the scanning part is easy.
Schmidt: Right? The scanning part is easy. You know, it depends again, accuracy is the key. The goal is not to rush through this. I can just speak from my own experience. We did… the team I worked on, we did about 80 ballots, duplicate… the duplication of 80 ballots, in three hours.
Miller: And how many need to be copied over right now?
Schmidt: I don’t have an exact number, but approximately two thirds of the ballots that are collected. So probably between 60 to 100,000 ballots, not clear on the number yet. But we are going to meet the State’s Certification Deadline. That is our plan.
Miller: For 100,000 ballots potentially, and it took your team an hour to do 80, I guess we can, we can do…
Schmidt: …three hours, three hours,...
Miller: Three hours to do 80, and there are 100,000. Okay, well I’ll let your, the team at the County get back to work. Gary Schmitt...
Schmidt: Get back to work.
Miller: Thanks very much.
Schmidt: Bye, bye.
Miller: Bye. That’s Gary Schmidt County Administrator for Clackamas County, meaning the Chief Executive Officer of the County. Nicole Morrissey O’Donnell joins us, now, recently elected to be the new Sheriff of Multnomah County. Nicole Morrissey O’Donnell, welcome to Think Out Loud.
Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here this afternoon.
Miller: I appreciate having you on. Are you at your office right now?
O’Donnell: I am in between offices, as we are doing Law Enforcement Memorial Week. And so I’m speaking at one of our Memorials here, shortly.
Miller: Because I only ask because I was curious what it was like to be there today, if you have been in any County Sheriff’s Department Offices, given that you’ve worked there for decades, now and you are about to be in charge?
O’Donnell: Absolutely, yes, I was in my office this morning and it’s just been a really positive experience. I’ve been working towards this for over 25 years and I am just really excited and honored and encouraged that our community has the trust in me and that organization has the trust in me to continue leading at the highest levels and I’m just really looking forward to that.
Miller: What are some of your top priorities for the future of the Sheriff’s Office?
O’Donnell: Absolutely. So as everyone in our community is aware, and as I talked with many community members along this journey, running for Multnomah County Sheriff, people don’t feel safe in our community. So my top priority is community violence, reducing gun violence through prevention, intervention, and collaboration and collaboration across all of our system partners, with our community based services as well as our public safety partners.
Miller: What does prevention look like from the law enforcement perspective, because I mean at the at the broader county level,
I can imagine various initiatives, but when it comes to people who are essentially police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or the broader Sheriff’s Department as a whole, what role do you see in preventing violence as opposed to responding to it?
O’Donnell: Absolutely, so we are a very front-facing organization in our community each and every day. And so I think building community trust, connecting with our youth through different programs. One of them that we participate in is ‘word is bond,’ really making those connections with our youth, and help our youth find positive, pro-social activities and looking as they decide careers, looking at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and looking at bringing interns and providing opportunities for people to learn more about public safety and the realm of possibilities that public safety has. That’s one area, and then just being in our community and building trust and working with our community-based partners and collaborating. So we are able to build bridges with our community members and do as much as we can on the preventative side through our schools and through our relationships with our community.
Miller: How would you, I mean, you emphasize building trust there a fair amount. How would you rate the level of trust that you think there is right now, towards the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department?
O’Donnell: I think we always have to work towards building community trust. So I think there’s always going to be work to do,, there’s been a lot of challenges over the last few years. Public safety is not the same as it was five years ago, but really it’s about connecting with community members, listening and learning and really understanding, so we can break down barriers between our community and our law enforcement and here each, you know, each community is uniquely different. So I think it’s really important to hear from all of our communities so we can build strategies in place to improve public safety and ensure people feel safe in their community and their homes, but that, you know, that takes into community events, in and out of uniform, and really just having an opportunity to engage in a setting that’s not necessarily when we’re responding to an emergency. It’s really about connecting with community on a more personal level.
Miller: You’re going to officially start this job at the beginning of the New Year and it’s a four year term, I think, if I’m not mistaken about that. How will you know, for yourself, that you’ve succeeded? I’m curious what your own metrics for success are?
O’Donnell: So, if you’re looking at where we’re at in our community right now, where I’m deeply concerned about the community safety issues, ensuring that we’re continually evaluating data and so we can ensure that we can see that we are building a safe community for everyone. But I also look at again, building that trust with our community and some of that is really challenging to measure, but we measure some of that in community connections and how are we building those bridges and breaking down those barriers, and how many times a week or a month are we connecting with different communities? But also, internally, when we’re looking at…I want to build a public safety agency and continue to do the work that ensures that when our Deputy Sheriffs and Corrections Deputies are front-facing, working with our community each and every day, they have their best foot forward. And I have watched that transform in one area of this organization that I had the opportunity to lead for about two and a half years, and I know that I can do that throughout the rest of the organization. It is a team project and everyone has a part on that team and I know that there are some challenges that we can overcome internally, but also working really hard to provide public safety services that are in alignment with our community, their expectations and their values.
Miller: The headlines from this morning about your win, they mentioned that you’re going to be Multnomah County’s first female Sheriff. What goes through your mind when you read headlines like that? I’m curious how much that matters to you.
O’Donnell: Well, when I read the headline, I guess sometimes I feel that I can’t believe it’s been that long, but I really feel like this is an opportunity to show youth to show young girls, women in any profession that you, you know, go for your dreams and work towards your dreams. And it’s a journey. And sometimes I talk about when I started at University of Portland as a college student, I was a Music major, so if you asked me then where I would be today, this isn’t what I would have thought would be happening. But clearly I had a goal in mind, several years into my career and it really is a journey and I want everyone to feel that they can achieve those life goals.
Miller: Nicole Morrissey O’Donnell thanks very much.
O’Donnell: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Have a great afternoon.
Miller: You too. That’s Nicole Morrissey O’Donnell who will be the incoming Multnomah County Sheriff. We turn now to Val Hoyle, Oregon’s Labor Commissioner and the Democratic nominee for Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District. Val Hoyle, welcome back to Think Out Loud and congratulations.
Val Hoyle: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
Miller: What went through your mind when you saw the results roll in?
Hoyle: I mean, I didn’t know what to think. I thought that they were just the Lane at first, I thought they were just the Lane County returns because I was a Legislator here for a long time and I’ve lived here for 22 years, and then realized they were the, all of the Counties coming together. So we were extremely happy. I feel very proud of the campaign that we ran, very focused on the issues, my experience, my vision, I’ve got a great team and I have a lot of support throughout this District that I’ve earned over, you know, two decades. So, it was, it was really nice to get that support. I got to say it was a good win.
Miller: What do you think made the difference for you?
Hoyle: Well, I think that what made the difference is I had a relationship with people throughout this District. Whether it was organizing for school Ballot measures, my work in the Bicycle industry as a State Legislator, as the Majority Leader or as a Labor Commissioner, where I worked with both Business and Labor throughout this District, people knew who I was, right. Like I started out with a fairly high level of name ID [recognition]. That’s something that the other people in the primary didn’t have. I mean, I think it was a robust primary and everybody had good ideas and have good progressive values. But the bottom line is you can’t win a marathon starting at mile 25 and I’ve been doing work in this community for a very long time.
Miller: What issues do you want to be front and center in the General Election?
Hoyle: Well, the good thing is the campaign that we’ve run is focused on the issues. That the issues in the primary that we ran on, will be the issues that we talk about in the General. It’s not a not a different message. So it’s jobs, working families, the economy, addressing the climate crisis, cost of healthcare and investment in infrastructure. We have a really good opportunity to continue the work that Peter DeFazio has done to bring Infrastructure dollars into this community, specifically, a new container port in Coos Bay, an upgrade to Rail. So we’ll just be talking about that – jobs and issues that affect working families.
Miller: Val Hoyle. Thanks very much.
Hoyle: Thank you. Take care.
Miller: You too. Val Hoyle is Oregon’s Labor Commissioner, chosen by Democratic voters to be the nominee for the Democratic nominee for Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District. I should note that last night in our live evening election coverage, we talked to Alex Skarlatos, the Republican that Val Hoyle is going to face in November. He is the former national guardsman who is most famous for helping to foil a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris. You can hear that brief conversation with him on our podcast feed and obviously we plan to have a debate for this and so many other races, as we get closer to the General Election. Earlier this hour you may have heard, we talked to Andrea Salinas, the Democratic candidate for Oregon’s newest Congressional District, the Sixth District. We’re going to turn now to the likely Republican candidate. Mike Erickson is the founder and owner of a supply chain logistics company. We called him up earlier this morning. I asked him what went through his mind when the results started to come in.
Mike Erickson: Well, I was extremely excited after all the hard work and the time and everything we’ve committed to this and invested in this race so far. We were excited to see that…we were hoping that we would be ahead. We thought we might be. And I think the lead ended up being a little more than we expected, which is great. I think it’s a sign that the voters of this District really liked the message that I’ve been conveying to people about, let’s focus on the important issues of the people of this District and not the too many other issues that are the side issues I think. But I think the skyrocketing inflation is hurting every person in this District right now. Everybody, everybody feels the price of gas prices going up almost $5 a gallon now, you know, food prices, housing costs and I mean everything is all centered around a bad economic policy. And I think my messages were pretty straightforward and I would go back there and solve that. I got some ideas to do that coming in, you know, a big part of inflation costs is supply chain cost and, being in a supply chain industry and the founder and CEO of the supply chain company, I helped some of the largest companies reduced their supply chain costs and there’s a lot of things you can do as a business out there to help keep those costs down, so they’re not passing on those huge increases that we’re seeing. I mean, costs of supply chains are almost 10 times what they were two years ago before COVID and a lot of these retailers are just passing on those costs to the end-consumers and driving up costs on almost every product across the line. So that’s just a big part of it. Plus, you know, the energy prices. So I’m really excited that my message has resonated so well, there was a lot of good candidates out there running in the Republican field from, like, Ron Noble and some other folks and you know, you never know how it’s going to come out to the end. But I’m really excited that my messaging is resonating pretty well with everybody, the voters here.
Miller: After a crowded field in the primary, are you ready now, physically and emotionally, to ramp up for the General Election or are you going to take a break for a little while?
Erickson: No, once I get the final nod here, hopefully it’ll be Marion County- Clackamas hasn’t reported yet. It’s only about 3-4% of the vote, but Marion County is only a small portion of the votes turned in. And so that’s probably 45% of all the voters in Marion County, Salem and all that area. So when those results finally get turned in, maybe later today and we got some, some real clear that we did win. I’m putting together a game plan for the future. I’m gonna get my team together and start thinking about what our strategies are. We’re jumping in this tomorrow, literally.
Miller: What will you be focusing on the General Election in a District where it’s not a cakewalk at all, for Republicans?
Erickson: Well, like I said before, there are certain issues that across all boundaries are Republican, Independent or Democrats and it’s, inflation that’s hitting every single family, single moms, farmers, small businesses, employers alike, as well as consumers, the cost of inflation and we have a national debt that’s skyrocketing. Energy costs are going through the roof and the supply chain delays. You walk into Fred Meyer or any store, you see shelves are empty. And so there’s some real problems. I think that affects every demographic in the state here, especially in our District. As I’ve campaigned in the last several months here, I mean, people tell me, hey, you know, ‘two, three hundred dollars more a month’ in food cost increases. I just don’t know, the money, Mike, I need help. I need someone to help and get these costs down. And you know, we really need to focus on that, more than anything. People are telling us, there’s a lot of real concerns about where this is going, It’s getting worse, not better. And so we need to really address that. And that’s one of the main issues. We’re gonna try to make our country energy independent again. And we need an all energy policy, including clean energy options and finishing the Keystone pipeline. We need… that will help drive down energy costs. There’s things like that, and crime and homelessness is another issue that crosses all borders whether it be Republican Democrat independent. You know, it’s just, we need to solve it. My dad was a policeman for 30 years. It was a true public servant helping out, you know, the off-duty, working in food banks and Habitat for Humanity. And you know, it’s still to me, the value of hard work and helping others and being a true public servant like he was for 30 years as a policeman.
Miller: Just briefly, if you were elected, would you move into the District?
Erickson: I’ve been a business owner in this District for 30 years, at the same building for 30 years right here in Tigard. I’m in the District. In fact, I’m sitting in the District right now.
Miller: Your businesses, but what would you…
Erickson: Oh, yeah …but I’ve lived in Tigard and I lived in Tualatin; I’ve worked at Tigard Fred Meyer for four years, going to college at Portland State before I started my business. So I’ve been a Tigard resident and a Tigard CEO and Owner, and for 35, almost 40 years here. So I feel like I’m a very, very involved Tigard resident right now, which is in the District, and I’ve got my family and kids in school. We live in unincorporated Clackamas County by Lake Oswego. I’m gonna stay in the house I’m at and continue to be an active member of the community through my business here in Tigard where I think it’s probably more important.
Miller: Mike Erickson thanks very much for joining us.
Erickson: Thanks a lot, Dave. I really appreciate it.
Miller: Mike Erickson is the founder and owner of a supply chain logistics company and he has a sizable lead in the Republican Primary for Oregon’s New Sixth Congressional District. We spoke earlier this morning. We end today with OPB Political Reporter, Sam Stites, to talk about another issue that was on some Oregon Ballots. Sam, welcome back.
Sam Stites: Hey Dave.
Miller: So three Counties in Oregon had folks who voted on a Proposal that’s been called Greater Idaho. Can you explain what this idea is?
Stites: Yeah. In the simplest terms, it would move Idaho’s Western border to include basically 3/4 of Oregon’s land mass in what would be renamed Greater Idaho. Basically, that would be everything east of the Deschutes River, excluding the city of Bend and everything south of Lane County. So I don’t know if you know that old phrase,’If you believe X, then I’ve got a beach house, I could sell you,’ in Idaho. Well, that idiom would have a different meaning if this went through because conceivably Idaho would have coastal territory. But the question on the ballot right now is more symbolic than a peer vote to leave Oregon. It’s an advisory question, and it just directs County Commissions to look at the beginning of the process, lobbying the state, the state legislature to start working with Idaho to kind of analyze what it would take to get this done.
Miller: What did voters in Douglas, Josephine and Klamath County say?
Stites: Yeah, so Douglas and Josephine County unequivocally shot it down with 55, 57% respectively voting ‘No,’ that was interesting because that’s really the first time this movement has seen friction; it did pass in Klamath County, however, with 56% saying ‘Yes.’ That’s more on par with what we’ve seen on previous votes.
Miller: Because other Oregon Counties have said ‘Yes,’ to their elected officials at the County level, ‘Please look into this.’
Stites: Yeah, that’s right.
Miller: It would take Legislatures in Salem and Boise to say ‘Yes,’ plus the US Congress to change state lines. That seems as you know, it seems incredibly unlikely. So what do you see as the significance of these votes and what can we learn from them?
Stites: Yeah, definitely. So, eight of nineteen Counties outlined in the area of Greater Idaho approved this advisory question before now, it’s at 10, there is some semblance that this is kind of, the more practical use of these advisory votes here is to kind of put pressure on the Legislature, which of course is led by Democratic supermajorities in both Chambers. Lawmakers from these largely rural and conservative areas could kind of point to these votes and say, ‘Look, people aren’t happy with how things are going, we need more balance or, you know, there’s a real chance that people will move forward with this idea.’
Miller: That’s one way to sort of take the political temperature of a County and another is the Gubernatorial Primaries that we just had.
Miller: Do you have a sense for how these Counties voted in the GOP nominations in the Governor’s race?
Stites: Yeah, that was interesting to watch. Klamath and Josephine Counties went to Christine Drazan. Drazan, obviously, she, I think she was born in Klamath County. So that’s not surprising. Douglas County, however, went to Bob Tiernan. I thought that was interesting. I don’t know exactly what it means, but it was one of several Counties where Drazan did not win.
Miller: You also covered the CD-6 [Congressional District Six], Oregon’s newest Congressional District. We have just about a minute left. We talked to the winners of the Primary earlier, Democrat Andrea Salinas and Republican Mike Erickson, what stood out to you in the results?
Stites: Yeah, So I think what, what stood out to me is kind of weird to see some of the national headlines today framing this as Salinas pulling off an upset. Anyone familiar with the race kind of knew she was the favorite, had the inside track as soon as she threw her name in. She definitely overcame the odds though. You know, when you look at the money that was being spent, $12 million spent on behalf of…upwards of $12 million spent on Carrick Flynn. There’s that big of a dollar amount. I don’t think people would have been surprised if he won. I think people were surprised at the fact that he didn’t, didn’t break 20%. So that was, that definitely stood out. It was a big surprise, also, to see how well Mike Erickson did. Not necessarily anything against him as a candidate, but Ron Noble just seemed so strong.
Miller: Sam stites. Thanks very much.
Stites: Thanks Dave.
Miller: Sam Stites is a member of a OPB’s Political Reporting Team. If you don’t want to miss any of our shows, you can listen on the NPR One App on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to get your podcasts. Our nightly rebroadcast is at eight p.m. Thanks very much for tuning in to Think Out Loud on OPB and KLCC. I’m Dave Miller, we’ll be back tomorrow.
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