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Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Oregon Politics: Tobias Read, Alek Skarlatos, Kate Brown

Friday, August 28, 2015


Every Friday, GoLocalPDX breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Oregon politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Representative Knute Buehler. House District 54 lies in the heart of Central Oregon. It is completely encircled by House District 53 (That makes HD 54 the Lesotho to District 53's South Africa (Look it up, that's a fun fact!)). This district is represented in the State House by Knute Buehler. Rep. Buehler made headlines this week when he announced he was not going to run for Governor. I don't blame him one bit. The thought of spending the next 14 months on the campaign trail challenging a popular, "incumbent" like Kate Brown in the current political climate would make anybody think twice. 

I wanted to talk to Rep. Buehler about his decision and his goals for the upcoming session. So I had my people call his people to set up an interview (the difference being he actually has people and my 'people' is just me). 

And just like that, I was on the phone with the good doctor. We began the conversation with his announcement. He had three reasons for deciding against a run for Mahonia Hall. First, he is a family man. It is bad enough being gone a majority of the time during the legislative session, the thought of spending the next year on the road was a little much. Second, he has got a successful medical practice and his patients needed him. And lastly, there is still some unfinished business to complete in the House.

He said he has three areas that will be a priority for him next session. The first is K-12 education. Oregon has one of the worst high school graduation rates in the country and that is unacceptable. And many of the kids who do graduate are not prepared for the rigors of a college curriculum. He would also like to see an increase in CTE funding to  get more technical programs in the schools.

His second priority will be transportation. One of his disappointments from last session was the inability of both sides to come together to get the transportation bill passed. He didn't blame any side in particular, but I can't imagine the Democrats riding roughshod over the GOP in the beginning of the session made for an amiable atmosphere towards the end when the transportation bill was up for debate.

And lastly, he said he wants to work on getting more family wage jobs to the state especially in Central Oregon. It is not the government's job to create jobs, but to foster an environment for businesses to create jobs. He would like to see more tech and manufacturing firms locate to Oregon and he thinks that  lot more can be done to make the state more attractive to these outside businesses. 

I then asked him about the priorities of the people in his district. He said affordable housing is the biggest need right now. There are over 80k people living in Bend. That's right, 80k. It is expected to top 100k in 10 years and there is nowhere near the necessary housing. He is also working to see the veterans in his district get the medical care they need and that Mirror Pond, the popular vacation destination gets some much needed upkeep.

Finally, I asked him who he enjoyed working with in the House and he gave a shout out to Reps. Cliff Bentz and Jeff Kruse and a couple Portland legislators, Reps. Rob Nosse and Alissa Keny-Guyer. 

And just like that the interview was over. I found him to be a pretty pragmatic guy who gave me actual answers to my questions and not just talking points. That was refreshing. State-wide office may be in his future but for right now he is where he is needed and can do the most good for the state. 

Overall I would give my interview a solid B+. 

Tobias Read. Make no mistake, Tobias Read will be the next State Treasurer. No other Democrat is rumored to be thinking of running for the seat and so far the only Republican who is shown any interest is Lake Oswego City Councilman Jeff Gudman. Jeff seems like a decent guy and maybe higher office is in his future; but not in this race. Former Representative Read has the name recognition, endorsement of the current State Treasurer and future Mayor of Portland Ted Wheeler and, let's be honest, the capital D next to his name. The last time a Republican held a state-wide office, LOTR: The Two Towers was playing in theaters. That was a very long time ago.

With all this going for him, it would be understandable if he enjoyed his summer and rested up before his perfunctory campaign begins in September. But not Tobias Read. This bearcat hit the ground running after the legislative session let out and has been working the phones for the past two months raising money. Since he announced his intentions on July 8th, Mr. Read has brought in more than 70k in cash and in-kind donations (That should scare off any and all potential challengers). How has he done this? He opened up his personal Rolodex. Of that 70k, nearly 25k has come from out of state. And of that 25k, 11k-ish has come from Silicon Valley. Last week Read even got 5k from Sheryl ' Lean In ' Sandberg. It must be nice when you have Facebook money backing your cause, cuz those pockets is deep. So for not sitting back and actually putting in the time this summer welcome, future State Treasurer Read, to the Hot Column. 

Alek Skarlatos. Oregon National Guard member Alek Skarlatos is more brave than me. He was on a train last week travelling to Paris when he saw a guy enter the train car armed with a AK-47. While most of us would have run the other way, not this guy. He ran at him. Mr. Skarlatos, along with 2 of his friends tackled the guy, beat him with the butt of his rifle and then got him in a choke hold. That is some bad-assery right there. There is no telling how many lives were saved because of his actions. The grateful French government gave him a medal and he even got a free ride on the Columbia Sportswear jet back to Oregon. This guy deserves all the recognition he has been getting. 


Wim Wiewel.  Portland State University President Wim Wiewel, the man whose name, when you say it out loud, makes you sound like the Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride, has never heard of Google. This is obvious, because if he had, he would have been able to get some background info on the potential donor who just promised him 100m dollars. He would have learned of the bankruptcies, his failed political career or the fact that his current company lists its address as the UPS mail drop on the PSU campus. 

He does know how to use email though. Because right after being contacted by this guy, President Wiewel emailed the Governor, the Mayor and every news outlet in the city to invite them to a press conference to announce the donation. If it were not for Mark Rosenbaum, local financial guy and PSU Foundation Board President, whose bullshit detector red-lined during a conference call with the would-be benefactor, the press conference would have gone on as scheduled. 

Suffice it to say there is no donation coming to the school. Sadly, because PSU could have used it. I just hope President Wiewel doesn't get any emails from Nigerian princes. He could be out a lot of money.

Governor Kate Brown. The number of Kitzhaber appointees in state government continues to decrease with the announcement this week of Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden's retirement. She took over a few years ago when Rudy Crew realized he couldn't milk the state for more vacations and left for greener pastures in New York. Ms. Golden will be missed as he was well respected by many. 

But Governor Brown makes the Not Column for her choice as successor. Enter Lindsay Capps. Current education advisor to the Governor and former lobbyist and communications director for the teacher's union. Golden was a former school superintendent with decades of experience in the public school system. Capps, not so much. The role of the CEO is to set educational K-12 policy throughout the state. It would be nice to have someone in that position that has actually spent time in the system. Additionally, Capps will continue in his role as educational advisor to the Governor while he is assuming this new position. There has to be a potential conflict of interest there, right? Maybe I am just cynical. On the bright side, there is no way he can be worse that Rudy Crew. 

Sean Robbins. Sean Robbins has been the Director of Business Oregon, the state's economic development agency for the last 13 months. Last month he unexpectedly announced he would be leaving the agency later this year to be closer to his family in Wisconsin, where he is from. Rumor has it that his wife and kids have already moved back before he even made his announcement.

"My wife and I have made the difficult, but necessary, decision to be closer to and care for family," were his exact words. In his resignation letter, he makes no mention of another job.

In other state economic news, after a rocky tenure, the head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) stepped down this week and the search has begun for his replacement. He is leaving that agency the same week Robbins is leaving Business Oregon. 

Mr. Robbins place here in the Not Column is based on pure speculation (Why anyone would want to work for Scott Walker is beyond me).  If he becomes the next head of WEDC then it would appear he was less than forthright on his reasons for leaving his post here in Oregon. Then his placement in the Not Column will be justified. Or this is just a huge coincidence and if that is the case, well, my bad. Sometimes I get carried away with my dot-connecting.


Related Slideshow: Timeline of Kate Brown’s Life and Political Career

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Brown was born on June 21, 1960 in Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain where her father was serving in the U.S. Air Force, but she grew up mostly in Minnesota. 

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Brown graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. in Environmental Conservation. She then went on to earn a degree in environmental law from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College. 

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Law Career

Before Brown began her legislative career, she worked at Portland State University and worked as an attorney with the Juvenile Rights Project, a non profit in Portland that provides legal services to children and families. 

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House of Reps

Brown began her legislative career in 1991 in the Oregon House of Representatives where she served two terms. 

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Kate Brown was elected to the Oregon Senate in 1996 and two years later was elected Senate Democratic Leader. 

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Senate Majority Leader

In 2004 Kate Brown became the first woman to serve as Oregon's Senate Majority Leader. Brown served until July 2007 when she announced that she would give up her seat in the Oregon Senate to run for Secretary of State. 

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Secretary of State.

On May 20, 2008, Brown won the election for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State and on November 5 she won the general election by a 51-46 percent margin against Republican candidate Rick Dancer.

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Rising Star

In 2009 the Aspen Institute named Brown as one of 24 "Rising Stars" in American politics and awarded her with a Rodel Fellowship

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Personal Life

Brown lives in Portland with her husband Dan Little who she has been married to for almost 20 years and is also a stepmother to  two children. She identifies as bisexual and was America's first openly bisexual statewide officeholder. 

Photo: Brown kissing Storm Large at Basic Rights Oregon's 27th annual Dinner Auction in 2009. Photo by Byron Beck.

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Cut D.C. Trip Short

On Wednesday, Feb. 11 2015 Brown left is the national conference for the Association of Secretaries of State in Washington D.C. two days early.

The 2015 Winter Conference runs from February 10-13, 2015, and draws top state officials from around the country.

Brown's spokesperson, Tony Green, confirmed she is on her way back to Oregon, and that her return is ahead of schedule. 

According to multiple sources at the highest level of State Government, her return is tied to a potential resignation by the embattled Governor John Kitzhaber.

Photo: Kate Brown with Peter Johnson (left) and George Vranas (right).

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Governor of Oregon

Governor John Kitzhaber released a statement Friday, Feb. 13 announcing his resignation.

Kate Brown will now serve as the Governor until the next general biennial election. A new governor can be elected in 2016. 

Kate Brown will be the second female Governor of Oregon. 

Photo Credit: Kate Brown with Dianne Lin by Byron Beck


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