Oregonian editorial page editor Bob Caldwell called back, explaining why no phone calls for the candidates:
"As explained in the editorial, Jo Ann is a known quantity," he said. "And we have met with her a number of times. We made the judgment based on public record."
"As for her occupation, maybe 'community activist' would have been more accurate than 'social worker'," he added. "But the fact remains that she's director of an agency that does social work, so it's not fatal."
"Lew Frederick had already been eliminated by the party from the race," he continued.
But that's not true. I told Caldwell: Frederick was never in the senate race. He was running for Shields' house seat, should Shields get promoted to the senate. I asked Caldwell to call back when he'd checked that, which he did.
"It says what is says," he said. "It's an opinion."
So I asked whether that meant the paper was indeed endorsing Collymore for Shields' vacant house seat without talking to Frederick first.
"The opinion embodies the hope that Collymore will run, and that if she does, the Democratic party will put her forward, and that the county commissioners would select her," he said.
"He's also a known quantity," said Caldwell. "He's run for several things in the past."
Original post: A surprising media story has emerged related to the Oregonian's endorsement of Chip Shields for state senate and Karol Collymore for the house of representatives this morning. It turns out two viable candidates for those two seats didn't get so much as a phone call to discuss the endorsement. Meanwhile the hipster slacker(TM) Mercury could at least be bothered to interview all five preliminary candidates on the issues affecting the district before endorsing in the senate race back in early September.
The board of County Commissioners selected Shields to be North/Northeast Portland's next state senator early this afternoon in a nail-biting round of voting that was split down the middle at one point, and had to go into extra time. The board grilled three short list candidates before voting: Shields, Oregon Action executive director Jo Ann Bowman and Karol Collymore, who is County Commissioner Jeff Cogen's
chief of staff director of communications.
You can read about the candidates and their stances on the issues here and here, and read all about the issues discussed in the session after the jump, in case you weren't following the #sd22 debate this morning on Twitter.
Meanwhile, this morning's Oregonian editorial said the county commissioners should pick Shields for the senate seat, leaving Shields' house seat vacant for Collymore:
Should county commissioners therefore pick one of the two women over Shields to preserve some measure of diversity in the Portland delegation? That's the wrong question. A better one: Isn't there a way to get one of these capable women into the Legislature to serve with Shields?
And yes, of course, there is. If Shields gets the nod today, a new appointment process will quickly begin to fill his seat in House District 43. Collymore says she would apply, and she would be terrific for the job.
The endorsement dismissed Bowman as a "social worker-activist" who "became an uncompromising, polarizing force, ultimately losing political capital within her own party." But Bowman says she didn't even receive a phone call about the endorsement. "It just blew me away," she says. "All the Oregonian has done in this race is talk about race—I had a conversation with Anna Griffin for her column a few days ago and she was focusing on race and I said when are we going to talk about history, and our experience within the community? And then lo and behold in this morning's paper they're making an endorsement and just talking about race again." Bowman says "to just malign me like that in a couple of sentences without talking to me first is surprising." She adds that the O's decision to "call me a social worker" is incorrect. "I've nothing against social workers," she says, "but I have never been one."
Bowman isn't the only candidate who didn't receive a phone call prior to the endorsement. Lew Frederick, who had mounted an aggressive Facebook campaign for Shields' vacant house seat, should Shields get promoted to the senate, was surprised this morning that the O would endorse Collymore for it without talking to him first—particularly since Collymore hasn't even announced her candidacy for Shields' seat, yet. The unusual endorsement was also noted this morning by County Chair Ted Wheeler. He congratulated Collymore on getting endorsed in a seat which wasn't even technically open yet. "Can I hire you as my political consultant?" he asked. "I don't come cheap, Ted," Collymore joked.
"I think this house race is a matter not only of experience in the district but of experience on the issues," said Frederick, this morning, after Shields was appointed. "I've been to all 36 counties, and I can talk to both Oregon's fishermen as well as the folks bucking hay on a ranch. I have a broad background and I'm qualified for the seat."
Frederick said he was "surprised" not to get a call from the Oregonian before they endorsed Collymore. Was he more than surprised? "There's another word for it, but I'm not going to use it," he said.
Collymore said she was surprised to get two votes this morning. "I thought they would vote unanimously," she added. Collymore is "very seriously considering" running against Frederick for the house seat, now, she said.
Shields said he, too, was "surprised" by the O's endorsement, adding that he is excited to get to work in his new role. He will meet with candidates for his open seat over the coming weeks, he says, and is expecting to make an endorsement in due course.
An inquiry to the Oregonian's editorial page editor Bob Caldwell is yet to be returned. Managing editor Therese Bottomly responded to an email request for comment directing the Mercury to Caldwell. "The editorial pages are entirely separate from the newsroom, where I am," she wrote.
Collymore said the biggest issue facing the district was gentrification, causing schools like Jefferson and Roosevelt High to fail as rich white kids are bussed out to other schools. "The graduation rates are an embarassment at those schools," she said. Bowman focused on "economic insecurity, lack of employment, and unemployment" as the biggest issue facing the district, saying she wanted to focus on providing job training to low income people. Shields, meanwhile, said the state's property tax structure was the biggest issue facing the district, added to the fact that more inmates are returning there than to any other district in the state.
The candidates were also asked about mental health services. Bowman said "The best mental health care available in our county is in our jail system, and that's a sad statement to make." Collymore agreed, adding that ""When we have people paid $8-$10/hr to take care of mentally ill people it's not treatment. It's a stop gap." Shields disagreed, saying: "I think the best mental health care is happening at places like the Garlington Center in our district." He said his hard work had led to improvements.
Asked about how they would support small businesses, Bowman said there are many small businesses willing to craft some form of tax reform package in the legislature. Shields said he wanted to ensure that health insurers didn't hammer small business by continuing to raise premiums, while Collymore admitted to having "no good answer," but added there is a "huge opportunity for green jobs" in the state.
Chair Wheeler asked if race matters—both Collymore and Bowman are African American, while Shields is white. The previous state senator, Margaret Carter, was African American, and her departure halved the number of black legislators in Salem. "We need to integrate more people of color into positions of leadership," said Collymore, after admitting to being afraid of the black drug dealers on the TV show Weeds. "I'm afraid of the black drug dealers on Weeds," she said. "And I'm African American. There's something wrong about that." Shields said race, gender, and a host of other diversity issues are "a legitimate issue, when all things are equal," but said "real results" are important. Bowman, meanwhile, said "all things are not equal. I wish we lived in an equal society, but we don't." She said it's important that people of color are represented "when you walk in the building."
The candidates were also asked about their accessibility, same sex marriage, how they would go about working across the aisle, and opening the currently shuttered Wapato jail. "We've turned prison construction into our economic development policy in rural Oregon," said Shields. "It's a shame and embarrassment." When the candidates were asked about health care, Bowman said it was a shame that the legislature had voted to take away dental and eyeglass care for poor citizens. "And we call this a legislative success?"
Here's how the voting broke down:
County Commissioners Deborah Kafoury and Jeff Cogen cast the first two votes for Collymore—a late entrant into the race. "We need to talk openly about race and not just pretend that it doesn't matter," said Kafoury, before casting her vote. Cogen praised Collymore's ability to "engage" people using new technologies like Twitter and Facebook. County Commissioners Judy Shiprack and Diane McKeel cast the second two votes for Shields, praising his record of achievement in the legislature, leaving County Chair Ted Wheeler to cast a deciding vote. Wheeler cast his vote for Bowman, moving proceedings into "deliberation." He then said "I think it's time to acknowledge that this is not [Bowman's] day," and changed his vote to Shields.