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Oregon Transformation Newsletter


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Let’s Hear It for the Ladies!
Q & A with newly elected Republican State Representatives Kim Wallan, Christine Drazan, Denyc Boles, Cheri Helt and Shelly Boshart Davis

Oregon Republicans have now lost 10 gubernatorial elections in a row. They also hold only 34 seats out of 90 in the state legislature. What’s wrong?

Kim Wallan, Medford, District 6
We need to understand in a state where the “majority party” is non-affiliated voters (NAVs) that name recognition is going to be the single most important thing we should be focused on. While this may sound simplistic, I think we overlook it far too often. It’s easy for those of us in the business of politics to lose perspective on this basic fact of getting elected. The only way we overcome the registration disadvantage is to have a candidate who moderate Democrats and NAVs are comfortable with, but more importantly that they know.

Mark Hatfield, Tom McCall, and Vic Atiyeh all three started building statewide political bases, and name recognition, as young men. Mark Hatfield built a statewide base by sending notes to people for births, weddings, graduations, deaths, etc., He used his professorship at Willamette to gain election to the House and Senate from Salem and to garner speaking opportunities around the state. He was elected Secretary of State despite opposition from the party, because of his base. From that position, he was able to launch successful campaigns for governor and senator. People knew him and respected him, not for his policies or party, because it was always difficult to pigeonhole him in those ways.

Tom McCall was an Oregonian reporter with a byline and a radio and TV newscaster for decades before running for Secretary of State and later, for governor. Again, he was hard to pigeonhole according to traditional party or policy labels, but people knew him and were comfortable with him.

Vic Atiyeh’s name was literally on the side of a building for decades before he began running for public office.

In addition to not doing enough to help our bench develop statewide name recognition, we give up too soon. Hatfield, McCall, and Atiyeh all had unsuccessful runs mixed in with their successful campaigns. All were willing to make the personal sacrifices, including building name recognition, and then come back after a loss, to earn election by the people.

Christine Drazan, Canby, District 39
Our state has changed, technology has changed, and politics are, at this moment in time, not local. In this election Oregonians made a choice to give one party supermajority control with no real check on their power and no expectation that they will balance impacts when crafting policy. But, it is not all bad news. I am excited to serve, anxious to engage in support of my community and state. Those of us who will serve in the next legislative session have the unique opportunity to be bridge builders on behalf of our districts. We may even lay the foundation to rebuild the House for the next election cycle. We have every reason to stop being sour about how tough it is to be Republicans and instead be optimistic that with a strategic vision and strong relationships we can make a difference.

In rough political parlance with the Democrats being “the mommy” party and the Republicans being “the daddy” party: How will the five of you, all successful business women elected to the legislature for the first time, see the world differently than your female democrat colleagues? Will you change public expectations of what it means to be a women serving in government?

Denyc Boles, South Salem, District 19
It’s an interesting time to run for office as a Republican woman. There are some deep differences in our country and in Oregon that that have played out in recent elections. There can be a perception that the Democrat Party is the party for women, and certainly in the Oregon House right now, there are many more Democrat women than there are Republican women. But as women, we are finding a stronger voice in all parties to represent our views and contributions to the world of political leadership. It’s an exciting time.

This election cycle we had an amazing group of recruits that were some of the most diverse Republican candidates I’ve seen in Oregon. We had 11 women running their first elections for the House and we had strong minority representation. I am proud to have won my first race and add my voice to the growing leadership of women in the Republican Party.

I ran for office because I’m passionate about my community and have a strong desire to see it become the healthiest place in Oregon to live, raise a family, start a business, receive a good education, and have all the opportunities afforded to being in this country. I am sure that many of my wishes are shared by my Democrat colleagues. The differences aren’t due to one party being more “pro-woman” or “mommy” in contrast to the other. I believe the difference is our view of the role of government.

We have a lot of hurting people in our communities and a one-size-fits-all government solution is not helpful. We have seen how unchecked government programs that don’t have good outcomes and money being spent with very little return have hurt our communities and left the very people they are trying to help hurting and abandoned. Solutions to these social problems and others come with community partnerships – local and state governments, nonprofits, businesses, families, schools, churches. I’m a Republican because I believe in limited government, freedom, choices, and partnerships. The best solutions come when different stakeholders work together, bringing their strengths to solve problems. We saw that here in Marion County some years ago when “No Meth, Not in My Neighborhood” took off and made a huge difference in the safety and well-being of families and neighbors. This was not a government program but a community investment.

I don’t think either party gets it right all the time. But as someone who was raised by a single mom, completed two degrees, married, raised three kids, started businesses, held jobs, and volunteered in my schools and community, I believe strongly that we need to quit putting people in boxes and figure out how to address the many challenges facing our state. As I stated before, it’s an exciting time to lend my voice to policy discussions in Oregon.

Cheri Helt, Bend, District 54
I ran for the Oregon House not because I am an active partisan, but because improving the funding, quality and safety of our schools is my passion. This is where I will focus my energy representing Bend the next two years. As a working mom, small business owner and school board member, I think I bring a unique perspective of public policy debates. I believe having more women voices in government and politics is a good thing – regardless of party label. I look forward to working with Governor Brown and Speaker Tina Kotek – I am confident we will find common ground on key issues.

Shelly Boshart Davis, Albany, District 15
This is a tumultuous time to be involved in government. Identity politics have pitted people against each other in ways that I find very unhelpful. The reason I wanted to run for the legislature is because I wanted to be a voice for my community. I happen to be a business owner of a trucking company, a farmer, a wife, and a mom, and while all of those facets impact my view of the world, none of them define me. I plan to show up to the Capitol and do the best that I can for my district. That’s what they elected me to do. I would expect I agree with much my female democrat colleagues stand for… I think the biggest differences between us are how we pay for programs and ideas, transparency in the way we go about things, and cutting costs being part of the budget process. This doesn’t come from me being female, this comes from being raised in a farm family and running a business.

Will I change public expectations of what it means to be a woman serving in government? Yes, I hope I do. I hope that I help it become unremarkable. I recognize there have to BE women in the legislature, in leadership, and in the public eye in order to show women around the state that it can happen and to get young women inspired. I’m honored to be in that position.

What are the issues you expect the Democrats to push in 2019? How aggressive and hard left will their agenda be?

Christine Drazan, Canby, District 39
The single-party agenda that is being discussed by Democrats for the upcoming session will have a direct impact on Oregonians. New taxes will hit low income, fixed income and rural Oregonians the hardest with higher energy and transportation costs—and of course rising costs for health care impact all of us. Every time an Oregonian gets into their car they will feel the effects of this majority’s agenda with higher gas taxes, higher registration fees and in just a few years—tolling. Every time they turn on the heat in their house they will subsidize an agenda that burnishes Oregon’s reputation as a leader on climate, while raising new taxes that are not dedicated to the environment. And without reforms, we will all receive fewer and fewer public services for the taxes we pay, as our state and local governments, including fire departments, police and schools, send essential public funding into retirement obligations and higher costs for benefits.

Given this, we have to ask ourselves, what can be done? What must be done? Well, we can’t give up. We have to stay engaged—politically and socially. We can’t hide out, bide our time, as if this is all business as usual and hope it changes. We have to engage wholeheartedly and honestly, in my opinion, without bitterness or anger.

These legislators who are fortunate enough to shoulder responsibility to balance budgets and adopt public policy are just a call or click away. I will be in the Capitol sharing impacts on my district and on the rest of our beautiful state. I will be working toward compromise, in support of balanced public policy for Oregonians whose lives will be impacted in large and small ways by these proposals. I will work for amendments that allow me to vote in favor of legislation that benefits our working families, public services, businesses and our environment. But, if the ideas aren’t fair and instead harm jobs and families, I will vote no—then wipe the slate clean and work just as hard for moderation and good public policy on the next issue.

The substantial numbers in the majority party give our Democrat colleagues the ability to pass major legislation without Republican input or support. I hope that they choose instead to listen and respond to the concerns of those outside of their districts and to manage the process in a way that is fair, transparent and responsive to the impacts of these proposals on all corners of our state.

Kim Wallan, Medford, District 6
My district is looking for me to, first and foremost, “Do no harm.” I have not been asked to pass more laws; mostly I get asked to try to ensure that more unfunded mandates don’t come our way. I also hear daily that people are hoping for PERS reform and no additional taxes.

 Now that Democrats have super-majorities in both legislatures, what form will your opposition to their rule take? Will you attempt procedural methods as a way of obstructing their agenda? Will you put emphasis on communicating an alternative to their governing vision?

Shelley Boshart-Davis, Albany, District 15
Our form of government can be messy and when a party ends up on the losing end, it’s easy to point fingers and dish out blame. While I am not excited to be in the super-minority, I think it’s important to remember that this represents the will of Oregonians. I think it will be vital for Republicans to use this time to create and communicate a message that resonates with more voters, especially those nonaffiliated voters in more moderate districts. I believe we can do better for the people of this state than the status quo. But what good is a great idea if we can’t form a message and be able to communicate that to voters?

Denyc Boles, South Salem, District 19
I plan on spending this legislative session building relationships and finding common ground to move good ideas forward for the people in my community. But there is also an important role that the minority party plays, even one that is in the super-minority. We are the pesky little sister that pokes at their siblings and shows when things are unfair, when they are being overlooked, and hopefully keeps things honest and makes things better for the family. I have no illusions -- we have very few tools in the tool belt to accomplish this, but we have a responsibility to Oregonians to speak up and make sure opposing ideas are heard.

How long will it be before Republicans can expect to win another statewide election?

Kim Wallan, Medford, District 6
We need to focus on helping our bench develop statewide name recognition. Dennis Richardson was a long shot for governor when he ran against a very weakened Democrat. He used the name recognition he built from his gubernatorial campaign to run for Secretary of State. His fortitude and stamina in doing so, along with strong support outside Portland and an even weaker Democrat opponent, propelled him to office. No one outside the Willamette Valley knows that Knute Buehler ran for Secretary of State. He did not build adequate name recognition with that run. He has now built great name recognition, and we should capitalize on that. The Democrats lost Secretary of State, so their bench is very thin and not known statewide. I also think they may overreach with their supermajority and create some expensive policies that Oregonians will feel keenly. I think the political climate might just favor us sooner than we think.

Denyc Boles, South Salem, District 19
How quickly people forget that just two years ago - Dennis Richardson, a conservative Republican from rural Oregon, was elected Secretary of State. I also worked in the building only a few years ago when the House was tied 30-30 between Republicans and Democrats. Politics is inherently cyclical. Clearly Republicans in the Legislature are at a low point after this election, but I'm optimistic that someday the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction. It might even be sooner than people expect.

By Eric Fruits



Oregon’s Middle Class Squeeze

First, the good news for Oregon. Oregon employment is at all-time highs, unemployment is at all-time lows, and per capita personal income is growing faster than the U.S. as a whole.

Then, there’s the not-so-good news for Oregon. Employment growth is slowing. Last year, the state’s population grew by 54,200, but employment grew by 43,200. Oregon also has one of the highest rates of underemployment. More than 70,000 Oregonians want to work full-time, but are stuck working part-time and cannot find a full-time job. That’s one of many reasons why, despite what seems to be somewhat rapid growth, per capita personal income in Oregon is still 6-7 percent lower than the national average.

Then, there’s the troubling news for Oregon: the state’s middle class has been gutted. 

Middle wage jobs took the biggest hit in the last recession, with a loss of more than 100,000 jobs, according to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis as shown in the figure below. Since the recession, high wage (e.g., professional and business services) and low wage (e.g., leisure and hospitality) jobs in Oregon have increased from pre-recession highs, while middle wage jobs (e.g., durable goods manufacturing) have declined throughout the state. With the steep decline—and slow recovery—of middle wage employment, Oregon household income inequality has worsened since 2007.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. Gini coefficient range of 0.442-0.462.

The figure above provides the Gini coefficient for Oregon from 2007 through 2017. The Gini coefficient is a widely used measure of income inequality. It ranges from zero (perfect equality in which every household receives equal income) to one (in which one household receives all income and every other household receives nothing). Prior to the recession, Oregon’s Gini coefficient was 0.447. In the first year of the recession, the state’s income inequality “improved”—recessions are the Great Equalizer. But, as the bottom continued to drop out of middle wage employment through 2009 and 2010, income inequality worsened. Middle wage employment stagnated through 2001-2014, further worsening income inequality. According to the state’s economists, there are now fewer middle-wage workers today than there were before the recession.

We’ve been wringing our hands over income inequality for a while. Five years ago, President Obama called it the “defining challenge of our time.” Rising to that challenge, the state and local governments have taken actions to make things worse. Time after time, we see policies that act to protect the privileged, placate the poor, and squeeze the middle class.

On healthcare, the privileged are protected with employer provided “Cadillac” health insurance. The poor get free coverage under the Medicaid expansion. Today, half of Oregon kids are on Medicaid, as are 1-in-5 adults. Squeezed in the middle are the thousands of families—many self-employed—who are too “rich” for Medicaid and are forced to buy overpriced health insurance on the federal exchange. The average price for a “Silver” plan is more than $5,000 a year for a 40-year-old adult. These plans have deductibles so high that for many families it’s like not having insurance at all. On healthcare, the privileged are protected, the poor are placated, and the middle gets squeezed.

On transportation, the privileged get protected. If you’re rich enough buy a new Tesla—the cheapest available model is about $40,000—the State of Oregon will pay you $2,500. And, you get to dodge the gas tax, which is currently 62.4 cents per gallon in Portland. The poor get $1 billion in public transit upgrades. If you buy a new vehicle, however, you’re hit with a 0.5 percent sales tax. If you buy an “adult” bike that costs more than $200, you’re hit with a $15 excise tax. Add in the new payroll tax and plans to toll I-5 and I-205 in Portland, and you’re really feeling the middle class squeeze.

On the environment, the Oregon legislature is charging full speed ahead on a cap-and-trade/cap-and-tax/cap-and-invest/whatever scheme. Under the plan, gas prices will skyrocket as will the cost of basic utilities. To placate the poor, the plan includes low-income energy assistance and tax subsidies. Industries with political connections, such as chip manufacturers, agriculture, forestry, and even waste management are expected to be exempt from the scheme. The privileged are protected, the poor are placated, and everyone else gets squeezed.

Since the Great Recession, Oregon’s middle class can’t seem to catch a break. Their employment opportunities have shrunk while their representatives in the legislature hunt for more and more ways to squeeze their wallets. It’s not that middle wage earners are purposely not paying attention: they’re just too busy working, or looking for a job that gets them out of the middle class squeeze.

Charters and Choice: Survival of the Fittest

 The New York Times did an end zone dance after the election, claiming that Democratic election victories mean the political tide has turned against charter schools and school choice in New York and elsewhere.

Although it is unfortunately true that Democrats tend to oppose empowering parents and students with choosing the school that best fits their needs, three decades of expanding educational freedom has proven that it will take a lot more than a mild blue wave to wash out the school choice movement.

The Times’ exhibit A is New York, where the new Democratic majority in the state senate means that the “golden era of charter schools is over.” It also mentioned Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker was defeated by the (anti school-choice) current state school chief Tony Evers; Illinois, where Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was beaten by J.B. Pritzker, who ran on curbing charters; and California, where long time charter-supporting Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown was replaced by Gavin Newsom.

To be sure, these are all setbacks for the continued progress of charters and choice. But a deeper look into the local political context in these states illustrates the resilience of the school choice movement.

In New York, even the Times admits that, “No one is saying that existing charter schools will have to close.” They just want to make it harder to open and grow new schools. This is in part because there are 100,000 students in charter schools that are performing at a much higher level than the traditional schools.

In Wisconsin, the birthplace of vouchers and a robust charter school state, Tony Evers is going to have a hard time limiting parental choice because Republicans have maintained control of both chambers of the state house. California has more than 1,300 charter schools enrolling 630,000 students – more than 10 percent of the state’s student population. Incoming governor Gavin Newsom is going to likely tread very lightly, especially because many of the newly elected Democrat legislators are pro charter school.

There’s a common theme here, which explains why the school choice movement has been resilient enough to weather three decades of political vicissitudes: Even the most strident union-backed reactionaries fear armies of parents.

This will likely be put to the test in Oregon next year. The last time Democrats had supermajorities in both legislative chambers, 2009, their top legislative priority was to shut down the online charter schools that then enrolled about 3,000 students. It was an epic, bloody, session-long fight. Parents with kids in these schools flooded the halls of the legislature and relentlessly made their case.

The Democrat supermajority ultimately succeeded only in freezing enrollment in online charters. The freeze was rescinded the very next session when Oregon voters, obviously wary of the excesses of Democrat supermajorities, had tied up the Oregon House with 30 Rs and 30 Ds.

Today, there are more than 6,000 online charter school students in Oregon. That’s some 12,000 parents along with their neighbors and friends. Will the new supermajority learn from the last one?

The New York Times doesn’t seem much interested in understanding the power of parents. It failed to even mention the most significant school choice election story of 2018: the Florida governor race. A strong case can be made that pro-school choice black women voters delivered the governor race to Republican Ron DeSantis over black Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Florida is a robust school choice state with 650 charter schools and with more than 100,000 low income parents taking advantage of a tax-credit funded scholarship program which enables them to send their kids to a private school of their choice. Gillum campaigned against charter schools and “privatization of public education.” He lost by about 40,000 votes.

A CNN exit poll showed that 18 percent of Florida’s 650,000 black female voters pulled the lever for DeSantis. The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Rick Scott, got only nine percent of this vote. That’s a swing of more than 100,000 votes against Gillum, and the school choice issue is the only reasonable explanation why black female voters would back the Republican against a black Democrat.

We can’t expect The New York Times to feel the pulse of the voting public, so it’s no big surprise they missed on this one. But politicians are starting to figure it out: school choice is a political winner, especially with minority voters.

By Rob Kremer

By Jacob Vandever

Polling, With a Grain of Salt

In the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections radio host Rush Limbaugh told Sean Hannity that he did not trust mainstream polling because they had not been right consistently enough and because the people conducting the surveys were biased against President Trump. So how was the polling during this election cycle and was there anything to Limbaugh’s skepticism?

Polls are not an absolute indicator of who will win an election, but a snapshot in time. An early poll can be entirely accurate for the time, but not end up reflecting the final results as the race changes over time. High profile races receiving large amounts of media attention will be polled more often and will have more polls from which to derive an average. High profile races are also more likely to be races where both candidates have high name ID, increasing the accuracy of the poll further. A poll for a presidential election where every respondent has heard of both of the candidates is going to provide more accurate information than a poll for state representative where fewer than 10 percent of respondents have heard of either one of the candidates.

Let’s look at some of the more high profile races from this last election cycle and their RCP Averages:

Arizona Senate

Real Clear Politics average: McSally +1

Final result: Sinema +1.7

Florida Senate

Real Clear Politics average: Nelson +2.4

Final result: Scott +0.2

Missouri Senate

Real Clear Politics average: Hawley +0.6

Final result: Hawley +6.0

Nevada Senate

Real Clear Politics average: Tie

Final result: Rosen +5.0

Florida Governor

Real Clear Politics average: Gillum +3.6

Final result: DeSantis +0.4

Generic Congressional

Real Clear Politics average: Dems +7.3

Final result: Dems +7.9

Oregon Governor

Real Clear Politics average: Brown +4.3

Final result: Brown +6.1

 While the RCP Average may have underestimated Republican Josh Hawley’s performance in Missouri by 5.4 percent and Democrat Jacky Rosen in Nevada by 5 percent, the other races seem to be within the margin of error for polling. The Generic Congressional Ballot polls even ended up being within .6 percent of the Real Clear Politics Average.

Polling may not be gospel, and there are a number of problems currently facing modern pollsters. If assumptions such as turnout levels among different groups are wrong, it will cause the results to be off as well. Laws against using auto-dialing cell phones are making the most accurate polls more expensive to conduct compared to the time when everyone was on landlines. The jury may still be out on the accuracy of online polling, and there will always be biased or sub-par pollsters wading into the fray. To get the best information out of polling one must look beyond the toplines and take individual polls as only one piece in a larger puzzle.

 Can there be bias in certain polls? Absolutely. But when taken together the polling averages are still fairly accurate. There is plenty of criticism to be made about modern polling, but to throw the baby out with the bathwater and tell people that polls in general can’t be trusted could come with serious consequences.