Oregon Progressives Target Reactionary Dem in Tuesday’s Primary

This weekend, progressives in Oregon’s 48th House district will be going door-to-door to turn out voters to try to unseat one of the most controversial Democrats in the state, in an effort to break a 30-30 tie in Oregon’s lower legislative chamber where the five-term incumbent repeatedly sided with Republicans and big business on key votes.

The grassroots campaigning will be to gather support for progressive challenger Jeff Reardon, a retired teacher and veteran, who is seeking to oust Rep. Michael Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, in Tuesday’s upcoming primary election.

Oregon’s House is split between Republicans and Democrats, making it hard to pass progressive legislation. Schaufler has sided with the GOP to vote against the creation of a state healthcare exchange, a key part of Obama’s health reform effort. He voted against raising tax rates on top incomeearners and large corporations—which ultimately was passed via two statewide ballot initiatives. He also voted against expanding consumer protections for bank borrowers.

Schaufler describes himself as “a pro-labor, pro-choice and pro-gay rights Democrat.”

Progressive frustrations boiled over when Schaufler accepted a $3,000 contribution from the Koch Brothers, the first time the Republican magnates gave money to a Democratic legislator west of Texas. The Working Families Party and its allies, including 800 people who signed a petition within a day criticizing the gift, forced him to return it.

Schaufler was also stripped of his Business and Labor Committee co-chair last October after allegedly groping a woman at a statewide AFL-CIO convention. He said the woman slapped a campaign sicker on him, and he tried to put it back on her shirt. Regardless of what happened, the incident and reactions indicate how controversial he has become. 

Nationwide liberal groups are watching Tuesday’s primary. So far in 2012, conservative Democrats have ended up losing to more progressive candidates in a handful of contests, notably two Pennsylvania congressional races. Tuesday’s primary in Oregon, as well as others in New Mexico and New York State, are seen as a reflection of how committed Democratic voters are to unseating incumbents who oppose progressive priorities.

Schaufler was elected a decade ago with organized labor’s support, but over the years his rightward drift has caused frustration and consternation among those allies.

The Working Families Party’s analysis of Schaufler’s political contributions found that more than 90 percent of the money he raised in the past five years came from business-related interests, such as corporations, PACs and their lobbyists. His spending also has been eyebrow raising, for example, reimbursing himself for a home campaign office and tabs at a local bar, the WFP analysis found.

This weekend, volunteers recruited by MoveOn and the Working Families Party plan to knock on doors in 48th House District, saying the political balance of Oregon’s House chamber could be held in turning out as few as 2,500 Democratic voters.

The Oregonian newspaper has also endorsed Reardon and said that Democrats in his district should take note of the choice in Tuesday’s primary. 

“Democratic voters in the district should listen,” the editorial said. “At this point, there is good reason to think that challenger Reardon could represent the Happy Valley district more effectively in Salem… In next year's likely closely divided House, District 48 voters can't be confident that Schaufler would be a constructive presence.”

AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at May 10, 2012, 10:18am

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