Oregon: House control flips
Farm Bureau official 'disappointed' by Republican losses
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Farmers lost four "good legislators on agricultural issues" in a Nov. 6 general election that saw Democrats gain control of the Oregon House and retain their 16-14 advantage in the Senate.
Katie Fast, government affairs director for the Oregon Farm Bureau, said the state's largest farm organization "was disappointed to lose some key incumbents that were good legislators on agricultural issues."
Democrats gained four seats in the House, going from a 30-30 split in 2011 and 2012 to a 34-26 advantage, as four first-term Republican incumbents lost.
"I think there was an expectation that the Republicans weren't going to hold all their (freshmen) incumbents," Fast said. "But I did not see all four losing."
Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, also said he was surprised.
"The freshmen Republicans did pretty well by us," Stone said. "But the voters ultimately get to decide who represents them, not the nursery industry."
Paulette Pyle, grassroots coordinator with Oregonians for Food and Shelter, said she thought two of the four Republican freshmen incumbents, Reps. Matthew Wand of Troutdale and Katie Eyre Brewer of Hillsboro, "were in trouble in their races." But, she said: "I was shocked with (Patrick) Sheehan (R-Clackamas) and (Shawn) Lindsay (R-Hillsboro).
Asked for their biggest disappointment, Stone and Fast said it was watching Brooks Tree Farm owner and Republican candidate for House District 22, Kathy LeCompte, go down to defeat for a second time in two years.
"We had invested heavily in that race, and were hopeful we were going to have a true farmer in the House," Fast said.
The Farm Bureau pumped more than $10,000 into the race for the seat that was retained by incumbent Betty Komp, D-Woodburn.
Stone said he was with LeCompte as the election results started coming in.
"She had no regrets," Stone said, "because she worked hard. There is nothing that they could've done differently in terms of their mail program, their walking program and their fund-raising."
Overall, Stone said, 46 of the 51 candidates endorsed by the nursery association won their seats.
Fast, too, said the majority of candidates endorsed by the Farm Bureau "did fine."
Both said they are looking forward to working with new leadership in the House.
"Both Democrats and Republicans care about family farms," Fast said.
Also, Fast said, the Bureau hopes to continue building on what has been a good relationship with Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Regarding statewide and congressional races, Stone and Fast said there were no surprises with Democrats retaining four of Oregon's five U.S. House seats and winning races for secretary of state, treasurer, labor commissioner and attorney general.
Fast said she was disappointed to see Measure 84 fail. The measure, which would have phased out Oregon's estate tax, was losing by about 100,000 votes as of press time, with 739,660 votes cast against it and 637,742 in favor of it.
"The good news for family farms is we do have the family farm, forest and fishery industry tax credit," she said. "But we were hoping for a broader, easier-to-use exemption."
Fast said the Farm Bureau was disappointed to see President Obama defeat challenger Mitt Romney in the presidential election: "We have concerns about actions of the EPA and the Department of Labor, so our members would have liked to have seen a change of administration on the federal level," Fast said.
"But that didn't happen," she said, "so we are moving forward to see if Congress and the president can agree on a farm bill."