Register-Guard Oct 12, 2016
Two years ago, Kathy Lamberg was in a position familiar to Republican legislative candidates in Lane County: She was a political newcomer going up against an established Democratic incumbent. The result was familiar as well: She lost to state Rep. Val Hoyle by nearly 12 percentage points. But Lamberg is back this year under different circumstances, and this time it is she who has the advantage of experience. Voters in House District 14 should elect her.
Hoyle sought the Democratic nomination for secretary of state this year, and gave up the House seat to which she was appointed in 2009 and then elected three times. Hoyle won big in Lane County but lost statewide to Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in a three-way race. District 14 — among the state’s most diverse, stretching from the urban areas of west Eugene northward to Junction City — is Lane County’s only open seat.
Lamberg, 57, works as a private teacher of ancient Greek. She was born and raised in the area now included in District 14, and was initially inspired to seek elective office by the example of her two sons’ service as Marines in Iraq. Lamberg’s involvement in civic affairs, however, is varied and extensive, including membership on the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency’s citizens’ advisory committee, the board of Habitat for Humanity and the River Road-Santa Clara volunteer library.
The Democratic candidate is Julie Fahey, 38, who works as a consultant to businesses needing help with human resources and workforce issues. Fahey has been active in her party — she’s currently treasurer of the state Democratic Party, and was chairwoman of the Lane County Democrats from 2012 to 2014. She’s a 2010 graduate of the Emerge Oregon program, which trains Democratic women for public service.
After her defeat two years, ago, Lamberg spent time in Salem observing the Legislature in action and was not happy with what she saw. The Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers are dominated by Portland-area lawmakers who pursue an agenda shaped by urban interests, she says, often with a high-handed disregard for the sensibilities of downstate and rural Oregonians.
Lamberg is particularly critical of overuse of the emergency clause, which is routinely attached to legislation so that it takes effect immediately, short-circuiting the possibility of referral to a public vote by petition. She also complains that major bills such as a minimum wage increase were pushed through the Legislature during the short session, leaving little time for debate and deliberation.
Fahey is well-informed about the issues and is broadly supportive of the Legislature’s recent actions on issues such as the minimum wage, paid sick leave for employees, free community college tuition for low-income students and the new motor-voter registration system. She supports measures on the Nov. 8 ballot to provide career and technical education and other student retention programs in high schools, and to use lottery funds for veterans’ programs and Outdoor School for all Oregon students. Fahey also supports Ballot Measure 97, which would impose a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on corporations’ annual sales in excess of $25 million.
Lamberg agrees with Fahey on most of the ballot measures, but parts company with her on Measure 97, arguing that low-income people would be hardest hit by price increases resulting from the tax. More broadly, Lamberg believes the Legislature should focus on creating a more hospitable environment for business in Oregon — more jobs and less poverty, she says, are the keys to relieving many social problems. She also believes the Legislature could do more to ease the financial burden of the Public Employees Retirement System, whose $22 billion unfunded liability is a drag on the budgets of state and local governments.
Both Lamberg and Fahey are well-prepared and energetic — but the length and depth of Lamberg’s involvement in grass-roots public affairs gives her a better grasp of the needs and priorities of people in District 14. Voters should elect Kathy Lamberg to fill Hoyle’s open seat.