By editorial board • 

Political interest blurs the normal local lines

Quick. Whose local campaign contribution and expenditure report lists donations from Kroger, Anheuser-Busch, Union Pacific and Koch Industries?

If you grabbed the low-hanging fruit, you cited Ron Noble of McMinnville, a retired police chief seeking re-election in Yamhill County’s House District 24.

It’s not surprising for a Republican to receive cross-state or cross-country contributions in a contested House race, particularly with a Democratic supermajority potentially hanging in the balance. That’s all the more true when he’s an incumbent already displaying leadership potential.

Noble’s report goes on to list contributions from other corporate players as well, including Burlington Northern, Weyerhaeuser, Chevron, Walmart and Nike.

You won’t find any of those in the report of Democratic challenger Ken Moore, but neither will you find the huge union donations lavished on Democrats with better prospects. His lone union contribution, from the Steelworkers, is matched by Noble’s lone union contribution, from the Iron Workers.

Moore pulled in tens of thousands from union and party coffers two years ago, but state Democrats have all but conceded this time around.

For the most part, the funding breakdown also follows normal fault lines in the non-partisan race for Yamhill County commissioner. Incumbent Stan Primozich lists contributions from Waste Management (Riverbend Landfill) and Ken Wright Cellars (Yamhelas Westsider Trail advocate), but is largely relying on contributions from local individuals. The same is true of challenger Casey Kulla, except for $5,000 from United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555.

The anomalies begin to appear down-ticket.

Contested judicial races are rare, and typically remain genteel, understated affairs. But not this year. Not in Yamhill County.

Jennifer Chapman’s status as staff lawyer for Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees rendered her a little-known outsider. And she was facing a consummate insider in Deputy District Attorney Lisl Miller, with 18 of her 25 years of legal experience spent in Yamhill County.

Chapman needed a major infusion of cash to fuel her bid, and AFSME’s Salem-based Council 75 and McMinnville-based Local 198 answered the call. Together, they contributed almost $25,000.

We can think of no previous case in which a major union took such a keen interest in a local judicial race. And we can think of no benefit accruing to the state’s 25,000 AFSCME-represented workers, who ultimately paid the bill.

In partisan legislative races, the goal is to maximize favorable policy and access. But that’s not the case with a circuit court judgeship, making this one a head-scratcher.

The intensity of the three-way race for an unpaid volunteer post on the McMinnville City Council — a non-partisan body of seven members, serving to diminish the influence of any one — is odder still. Incumbent Sal Peralta has even been subjected to forum heckling and a robocall attack.

What could possibly be in it for Chris Chenoweth contributor Ron Fennern of Parrett Mountain, husband of Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett and owner of politically active RAF Enterprises?

It’s another mystery for us.


E.J. Farrar

It has been widely reported that Phil Knight has spent millions of dollars trying to get Knute Buehler elected governor. I wonder what he expects to gain from that.

Don Dix

E.J. Farrar -- It has been widely reported that Kate Brown was not born in the US. One of us is speculating -- which do you suspect?


1) Kate Brown: "Brown was born in Torrejón de Ardoz, Community of Madrid, Spain, where her father was serving in the United States Air Force, but was raised in Minnesota. She graduated from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota in 1978. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Conservation with a certificate in Women's Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1981 and a J.D. degree and certificate in Environmental Law from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College in 1985."

2) Phil Knight: "Since August 2017, Knight has donated a total of $2.5 million to state Rep. Knute Buehler, the Republican who is mounting a competitive challenge to the re-election bid of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. Knight has given another $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which has spent more than $2 million supporting Buehler."


E.J. Farrar

I would be proud to have been born in Spain.

Don Dix

Thanx Steve. It appears both comments were correct.

So. E.J., to answer your question about 'what Phil expects to gain' -- maybe a state government that considers all the residents important ... a governor that actually does something that bucks the present system of the lockstep march with public employee unions ... an end to the wasteful spending on foolish, 'feel-good' legislation and projects by incompetent leadership.

E.J. Farrar

Thanks, Don. That explains it. (:-)


I can clear up another mystery. I am Ron Miller, husband to judicial candidate, Lisl Miller. I live in McMinnville, not Portland -- I am not a lawyer -- and not politically connected! Over the past 12 years, I have rarely turned down any Yamhill County non-profit asking for help with their marketing and graphic design — I have a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design and an Master's Degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, YCAP, Give A Little Foundation, Soroptomists, Mayor’s Ball and the McMinnville Chamber of Commerce are just some of the local organizations I've worked for. Among the 5,000 hours that I have donated to area groups are a handful of political campaigns. I rarely turn anyone down who is looking to improve the lives of people in Yamhill County.


Well, I never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music.

Chris Chenoweth

Ron Miller, I thank you for your support and for clearing up the mystery.


Just so people understand the RJM post, the original version of this editorial misidentified a contributor listed on Chris Chenoweth's report as Ron J. Miller. The error has been caught and corrected in the online version, and a print correction will be running in Tuesday's paper.
The contributor in question is actually Ronald James Miller of McMinnville, listed on his wife's campaign reports as Ronald Miller and posting here as RJM.
I think it goes without saying that we regret the error. We work very hard to convey information accurately, but sometimes fall short. And this was one of those cases.
Steve Bagwell, Editorial Page Editor

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