As we go to the polls in a heavily contested election cycle this year, the question of who will win the presidency is sure to dominate most people’s attentions. After almost two years of non-stop news coverage of the primary process, I’m sure that almost everyone reading this has made up their minds about who they’re voting for at the highest level of American federal office. However, this relentless news cycle also means that local races (which can often have the most direct impacts on our lives) don’t receive as much coverage. With the threat of a potential backslide into fascism-lite on the ballot after many months of a global pandemic and immense social unrest, voters can be forgiven for not having the time or energy to research who’s running for County Commissioner or County Clerk.
The purpose of this guide is to help you decide who to vote for in this upcoming elections. I’ve spent hours researching policy positions and individual platforms, and while I don’t expect you to follow this guide to the letter, I hope it can at least help inform some of the choices you make on the ballot.
To preface this, however, I’m laying down 3 initial observations that I think you should be aware of:
- I am an extremely progressive BIPOC individual who stands well to the left of the current Democratic Party platform, and that heavily informs my vote. Typically, I vote for candidates who are unbeholden to corporate interests, strong on labor rights, unyielding on environmental legislation, and committed to uplifting marginalized constituents, and you’ll see these themes throughout this guide.
- I have only given suggestions for races that are contested, i.e, races with more than one candidate on the ballot (or actively running a write-in campaign). This one is pretty self-explanatory, because there’s really no point in me comparatively weighing in on an uncontested race. I want to keep this guide as free of fluff as possible for maximum accessibility.
- I have not actually weighed in on the presidency. The reason for this is simple: the presidency has dominated the news cycle for the last year and a half now, and unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably already made up your mind about who you’re voting for. My three paragraph opinion on the internet probably isn’t going to change yours on a race that’s been so ever-present in national discourse, so I’ll stick to just the down-ballot races, which tend not to get as much attention.
So without further ado, here goes! I’d love it if you also read the reasons behind my recommendations. But, if you’re looking for a concise cheat sheet version, click here.
Deeps’ Recommendation: Jeff Merkley
Seeking a third term in the US Senate, Jeff Merkley has consistently been one of the more progressive voices in American politics at the national level. In a local election cycle where COVID response and the climate has dominated the interests of progressive voters, Merkley stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field in this race.
A leader in national climate policy, labor rights, and healthcare advocacy, Merkley faces competition from Jo Rae Perkins, a QAnon spouting conspiracy theorist who holds by the Trumpian view that climate change is nothing more than a hoax engineered by governments in order to further control their citizens, and who does not believe in any of the steps Oregon has taken to combat COVID-19 thus far — including social distancing metrics. I think the choice here is pretty cut and dry: Merkley is far and away the best choice to represent our state and our country in the Senate.
I would also caution against voting for the Green Party candidate in this race. While the vast majority of Ibrahim Taher’s platform sounds appealing to progressive voters (he is in favor of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal), he is not without his own share of conspiracy beliefs. Specifically, his website calls COVID contact tracing procedures a needless expansion of the American surveillance state, and he also has anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination views. While it may sound appealing to vote for someone outside the two party binary in this race, Taher poses a unique threat to Oregon’s public health and safety, and shouldn’t deserve your vote.
US REPRESENTATIVE — 5th DISTRICT
Deeps’ Recommendation: N/A
Kurt Schrader has represented Oregon’s 5th District in the House of Representatives for around 12 years now, and has consistently had one of the worst voting records among House Democrats. With an incredibly large campaign fund coming from various big money donors across the district, Schrader is expected to comfortably defeat the nearest challenger — Republican Amy Courser.
However, as a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, the House’s moderate Democrat wing, Schrader has consistently voted against the expansion of healthcare rights to those in need, and possesses an abysmal labor rights voting record. As a House Rep, Schrader voted against this year’s PRO Act, which would make the path to unionizing easier for workers by abolishing “right to work” laws — one of only seven Democrats to vote so. Additionally, his office has long ignored progressive climate and healthcare activists, whose views oppose those of his donors.
Courser is no better herself, however. A Republican who believes in “free-market healthcare principles,” eliminating Obamacare, and reducing amnesty to immigrants. The Libertarian candidate, like most others in the party, believes in reduced government oversight over pandemic response and has echoed calls to “privatize” the police in response to brutality claims instead of defunding or demilitarizing them.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Deeps’ Recommendation: Nathalie Paravicini
After narrowly beating out two challengers in the Democratic primary in May, State Senator Shemia Fagan is poised to win this election by a handy margin. However, my eye is on long-shot Pacific Green Party candidate Nathalie Paravicini, whose policy platform as Secretary of State not just protects the voting rights and systems we Oregonians enjoy, but expands them drastically.
Both Fagan and Paravicini are united on the basics: they’re both committed to maintaining Oregon’s mail-in-voting system in the face of renewed rhetorical attacks by the President on the national stage; they’re both in favor of passing State Measure 107, which imposes campaign finance laws that would make Oregon’s elections more equal and transparent; and both intend to improve Oregon’s natural disaster response forces. In that, both are far superior to Republican candidate Kim Thatcher — who was among the Republican State Senators who walked out on their jobs in response to proposed climate change legislation last year — and Libertarian Kyle Markley, who vehemently opposes any form of campaign finance reform.
There, however, the similarities end. Paravicini’s plan to revitalize Oregon’s voting system goes far beyond anything Fagan has to offer, and includes proposals like introducing Ranked Choice Voting, voting on holidays (for increased accessibility), and motor-voter registration procedures. While Fagan remains the safe, moderate choice, I believe that Paravicini possesses the vision to bring Oregon’s voting systems into the modern era; making voting more accessible and more meaningful to everyone.
Deeps’ Recommendation: Chris Henry
While incumbent Tobias Read has a definite advantage in this race — both in terms of money raised and name recognition — he is completely bought and paid for by out-of-state interests legal interest groups. Although he has solidified the moderate Democrat vote, over 40% of his funding comes from external legal groups that seek to do business with the Treasury, meaning that there are massive question marks over Read’s integrity and his commitment to the people of Oregon.
On the other hand, however, is Independent candidate Chris Henry. The only candidate in the race to abide by Oregon’s Measure 47 — which puts a cap on maximum campaign donations — Henry is assuredly not bought and paid for. Additionally, he’s got some great ideas to revitalize Oregon’s economy too, including the creation of a State Bank to help farmers and entrepreneurs, and an investment focus on public works projects, including climate change infrastructure.
Deeps’ Recommendation: N/A
After getting nearly 500,000 votes in her uncontested Democratic primary in May, two term incumbent Ellen Rosenblum is expected to win this race by quite the margin over Republican challenger Michael Cross and Libertarian Lars Hedbor. However, I cannot in good conscience endorse or tell you to vote for either of them based on their individual records.
Cross is a staunch conservative who is perhaps most famous as the man who led the recall movement against Kate Brown last year. His personal beliefs are rather concerning: Cross was part of the online circles that amplified claims that the recent Oregon wildfires were started by ‘members’ of antifa, which led to the establishment of multiple unofficial far-right ‘checkpoints’ along highways leading away from the fires that stopped and harassed fleeing BIPOC individuals. To make matters worse, he was himself found guilty of fourth degree assault here in Marion County in 2006.
However, Rosenblum’s record doesn’t instill confidence either. Her office in 2015 was found guilty of surveillance against people who used the #BlackLivesMatter online in 2015, going so far as to surveil and profile her own department’s civil rights director, Erious Johnson, who resigned after being profiled and monitored. Additionally, her office has been rocked by sexual misconduct allegations and allegations of misogyny against senior staff. Rosenblum’s habit of maintaining plausible deniability when claims like these come to light doesn’t do much to reassure voters of her department’s conduct. And to top it all off, Rosenblum personally defended Oregon’s non-unanimous jury conviction policy in front of the Supreme Court recently. This procedure has its roots in the racist, anti-BIPOC sentiment that permeated early twentieth century Oregon, and to see a modern, supposedly ‘progressive’ Attorney General defend it before the Supreme Court — effectively making Oregon the last state in the union to scrap it this year — is absolutely inexcusable. So while her administration may have accomplished some good in the past four years especially — she took action against some of Trump’s environmental repeals and championed Obamacare in court — her office has also made some incredibly large missteps, and I really hope she gets primaried from the left in the next election cycle.
STATE SENATOR — 10th DISTRICT
Deeps’ Recommendation: Deb Patterson
In what is sure to be an extremely tight race — one that could be decided by a literal handful of votes — I’m voting for Deb Patterson to be Salem’s next State Senator. Deb, who ran against former State Senator Jackie Winters in 2018, is a longtime advocate for more equitable healthcare access in Oregon, and is someone who believes in climate change action.
The same, however, cannot be said for her opponent (and current incumbent), Republican Denyc Boles. State Senator Boles was one of the many Republicans who shut down the legislative session last year by walking out because they were too cowardly to both debate and vote against the meaningful climate change legislation that was on the floor of the State Senate. While Boles and her colleagues essentially took a taxpayer funded vacation during the legislative session, their decision had catastrophic impacts on our state as a whole. You see, one of the proposed bills they refused to vote on would have given Oregon more funding for wildfire prevention measures, something that really would have come in handy this summer, when over one million acres burned and thousands of homes were destroyed.
Our state burned this summer, and State Senate Republicans indirectly exacerbated the wildfires’ impacts by refusing to vote on climate change legislation. Between that and the rest of Boles’ platform — which is anti-labor, anti-pandemic response, and anti-social justice, she does not deserve any of our votes.
In what is arguably the most consequential down ballot race in Marion County; a race that could be decided by just a few hundred votes either way; I implore you to vote for Deb Patterson.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE — 19th DISTRICT
Deeps’ Recommendation: Jacqueline Leung
In the other tight race here in Salem, Democrat City Councilor Jacqueline Leung is running against incumbent Republican Raquel Moore-Green to represent South Salem and Turner in the Oregon House of Representatives.
Jackie enjoys plenty of labor/union endorsements, healthcare endorsements, and social justice group endorsements, and I remember her active participation in multiple Black Lives Matter rallies over the summer. On the other hand, Moore-Green’s approach is to center herself as a moderate Republican capable of working across the aisle, with significant support from Salem’s (incredibly problematic) law enforcement community for her opinions on recent activist movements across the state.
While she’s not as progressive as some of the Democrats she ran against in the primary, in yet another race that could be decided by just a few hundred votes either way, I highly encourage a vote for Jackie Leung, because I think her community involvement makes her exactly the kind of person who should represent the district in the House of Representatives when compared to the alternative.
State Ballot Measures
MEASURE 107 — CAMPAIGN FINANCE
Deeps’ Recommendation: YES
Ballot Measure 107 is incredibly important for Oregon’s democracy in that it would bring us up to par with the rest of the country. As of today, Oregon is one of only eleven states in the US that has no campaign finance limits whatsoever. It’s part of the reason why such a progressive, movement-oriented state finds itself saturated with establishment politicians in decision making positions, because of the sheer amounts of money they are legally allowed to drum up from big money donors.
Voting YES on this ballot measure would allow the Oregon Constitution to be amended in such a way that facilitates campaign finance laws, greater campaign finance transparency, and equalizes the playing field of Oregonian elections, which would allow for a fairer election process overall, and one where the candidates running for office would be from less moneyed, more representative backgrounds. I cannot recommend this measure enough.
MEASURE 108 — TOBACCO TAX INCREASE
Deeps’ Recommendation: YES
Measure 108 increases taxes on pretty much all forms of cigarettes/cigars/e-cigarettes in a manner that would make a pack of cigarettes a few cents more than in California, and a few cents cheaper than in Washington; around $3/pack.
Increasing the cumulative price of tobacco products can have a powerful effect: it can prevent almost 20,000 young people from picking up the habit — the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon — in the first place, while increasing state funding for nicotine addiction programs and the Oregon Health Plan at large.
Oregon has one of the lowest tobacco product tax rates on the West Coast, and this measure would bring us up to speed with the rest of our peers. And in the age of COVID, we could use all the extra funding we can get for state health programs like the OHP, which funds healthcare for up to 1 million people. It’s a resounding YES from me.
MEASURE 109 — PSILOCYBIN LEGALIZATION
Deeps’ Recommendation: YES
Recently, mainstream discourse around drugs has begun to lean towards legalization, with the successful legalization of marijuana across the country paving the way for the expansion of a lot of people’s views on the subject. In that same vein now comes Measure 109, which would allow for psilocybin mushroom usage in licensed, controlled medical therapy systems.
The science has long been clear on psilocybin use: it is effective at treating depression, anxiety, and more general mental health issues. Researchers, doctors, and therapists at leading institutions across the country support this claim, and with Measure 109, Oregonians could see real benefits in mental health treatment.
This measure has widespread support across the medical, political, law enforcement, and therapeutical communities, and would establish Oregon as a progressive leader in yet another solution to the war on drugs. I highly recommend a YES vote.
MEASURE 110 — ADDICTION TREATMENT
Deeps’ Recommendation: YES
Measure 110 is an incredible proposal that would move Oregon out of seemingly dead-bottom when it comes to effective addiction treatment. It introduces a humane, health based approach to illegal drug possession, instead of treating it like a criminal issue, which studies have proven is less effective.
Currently, we spend $30,000 per case to convict someone of possessing an illegal drug; money that could well go towards treatment and prevention measures in the first place. By decriminalizing illegal drug possession in the first place, we save an immense amount of taxpayer resources that are otherwise used to lock up BIPOC individuals at disproportionate rates, and funnel them into addiction treatment programs that actually work.
Removing this key reason for incarceration not only removes the stigma around people with prior conviction history for possession related charges, but actively benefits our community by not ruining lives over an issue that should be treated from a healthcare point of view and not a carceral point of view. It would serve as a key first step in successfully ending the war on drugs locally and provide for a better Oregon. Please vote YES on this ballot measure.
County Elections — Marion
MARION COUNTY COMMISSIONER — POSITION 3
Deeps’ Recommendation: Ashley Carson Cottingham
Ashley Carson Cottingham has a mountain to climb if she is to beat Republican Salem Keizer School Board member Danielle Bethell, but her campaign is incredibly promising, and has the potential to flip what is a longtime Republican stronghold here in Marion County.
Bethell is one of many increasingly problematic figures on the Salem Keizer School Board, and her clashes with BIPOC student organizations like Latinos Unidos Siempre have gained wide traction on the internet. Most recently, she declined to participate at a candidate forum LUS participated in, calling LUS’ attempts to hold her and the school district accountable a “personal attack.” Her flippant attitude towards COVID-19 has also come to the fore recently, with her decision to hold a large, in-person, indoor fundraising event widely panned by the online community.
Alternatively, however, Cottingham is an employee of the State government, who’s championed the needs of seniors and disabled citizens for years. Her policy platform includes taking bold steps on tackling the houseless crisis in Marion County; she plans on using the County’s 455 million dollar budget to expand women’s shelters, construct a low-barrier shelter for the houseless, and establish a resource hub to help alleviate the financial implications of today’s economy on the most vulnerable of our population. I think Cottingham is our best choice for County Commissioner.
MARION COUNTY CLERK
Deeps’ Recommendation: N/A
Personally, this one’s extremely difficult to choose between for me, because I think both candidates in the race are equally deserving of the County Clerk’s office. I voted for incumbent Bill Burgess in this race, but only because I’ve met him a few times and know for a fact that he’s a stand-up, progressive person.
The County Clerk race is usually the most impactful because the office has direct oversight over our voting procedures and ballot counting, but both candidates in this race are equally committed to conducting impartial and fair elections, which is a relief. In favor of Danielle Gonzalez are two main arguments: her policy proposal to convene a nonpartisan citizen review board to monitor and provide insight on the election process and how it can be improved (which I think is a fabulous idea); and her commitment to the digitization of Marion County’s voting procedures.
Burgess, on the other hand, oversaw Marion County’s transition to a vote by mail only county in the early 2000s, and has been an integral player behind a lot of the voting features we take for granted today, including the ability to track one’s ballot at all times. He’s also scored the endorsements of progressive organizations like Our Revolution, the national political activism organization born out of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run.
At the end of the day, both candidates would do really well in the role, and you can feel free to vote for whoever you think might be the best fit. Again, I voted for Bill Burgess because I’ve met him at multiple Salem for Bernie events and BLM rallies, but could just as easily have voted for Gonzalez (like I know a lot of other activist friends are doing) if I didn’t have that background context.
MARION SOIL & WATER, DIRECTOR, AT LARGE 1
Deeps’ Recommendation: Brenda Sanchez
In the final contested race on the Marion County ballot, I’ve gone for Brenda Sanchez to be the Director for Marion County’s Soil and Water District. Brenda is a current water quality specialist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and I believe that for positions like these (that are heavily grounded in directly applying scientific principles to best preserve our natural resources) it’s probably best to vote for the more technocratic candidate with experience in said field.
Brenda is a current member of the Marion County Water Advisory Committee, and has an educational and occupational background in the soil and water conservation field, something that her opponent — with a primarily statistics background — lacks. Given that the purpose of the Marion County Soil and Water District is to plan, design, and implement soil & water use policies, and given both candidates’ significant lack of voter outreach, I’m going with Brenda Sanchez for this position.
Deeps’ Cheat Sheet
- US SENATE — Jeff Merkley
- US REPRESENTATIVE (5th DISTRICT) — N/A
- SECRETARY OF STATE — Nathalie Paravicini
- STATE TREASURER — Chris Henry
- ATTORNEY GENERAL — N/A
- STATE SENATOR (10th DISTRICT) — Deb Patterson
- STATE REPRESENTATIVE (19th DISTRICT) — Jacqueline Leung
State Ballot Measures
- MEASURE 107 — Yes
- MEASURE 108 — Yes
- MEASURE 109 — Yes
- MEASURE 110 — Yes
- MARION COUNTY COMMISSIONER — Ashley Carson Cottingham
- MARION COUNTY CLERK — N/A
- MARION SOIL AND WATER, DIRECTOR (AT LARGE DISTRICT 1) — Brenda Sanchez