Long-Term Care Group Endorses Candidates in Contested Primaries

The Oregon Health Care Association is picking sides in the May 15 Democratic primaries, giving money to veteran Sen. Rod Monroe and supporting Lane County Medical Society director Marty Wilde for an open seat in Eugene. The GOP is trying to fend off a candidate who has disparaged Jews and Muslims in its Eugene nomination.

The Oregon Health Care Association has waded into the 2018 primary season, supporting Marty Wilde, one of two Democrats battling to replace outgoing Rep. Phil Barnhart of Eugene, the longest-serving Democrat in the Oregon House, according to a Lund Report review of the latest healthcare sector campaign contributions.

Through its political action committee, the coalition of long-term care providers has donated $2,500 to Wilde’s campaign. He is an Air Force veteran and the executive director of the Lane County Medical Society.

For the May 15 primary election, Wilde is up against Kimberly Koops, a law clerk with SEIU who has retained the support of organized labor, including a  $2,500 campaign donation from Oregon AFSCME.

Two Republicans are also vying to replace Barnhart, and the Oregon Republican establishment is trying to avoid the embarrassment of nominating Joshua Powell, who defended anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim remarks he made on Facebook in an interview with the Register-Guard.

The Oregon House Republicans have spent $5,400 to bolster the campaign of mainstream Republican Mark Herbert, who’s running a longshot campaign in the heavily Democratic seat based in Eugene.

The OHCA political action committee has donated $67,000 to political candidates, on top of the $171,000 it spent last year, making it one of the biggest healthcare sector funders of political campaigns. Last year, the group donated $25,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and $25,000 to the Yes on Healthcare campaign, which supported Measure 101 in a special January election.

For the May primary election, OHCA has also backed veteran lawmaker Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, with $2,500. Monroe faces two challengers from the left -- former Happy Valley Rep. Shemia Fagan and Kayse Jama of the liberal advocacy group Unite Oregon. The campaign fight in east Portland pivots on Monroe’s opposition to rent control and an end to no-cause tenant evictions, two policies that he helped block in 2017.

The long-term care providers mostly support incumbent legislators and have done so in bipartisan fashion, recently giving $2,500 to Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters of Salem and $1,000 to Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer.

Hillary Clinton won Thatcher’s district by two points in the 2016 presidential race, suggesting there may be opportunities for Democrats to make inroads in state politics there, although it’s unclear how strongly the party will challenge the incumbent Republican’s seat. Two Democrats, Willamette law professor Paul Diller and Newberg High School educational assistant Sarah Grider, are running to oppose Thatcher.

Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, tied for the most money received so far this year form the OHCA PAC with $5,000. Rayfield chairs the subcommittee that oversees the budgets of the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services, which funds Medicaid long-term care services.

The powerful Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, also received $5,000 for his campaign. Courtney is running for a sixth term representing north Salem and Woodburn.

Other top recipients from OHCA include $2,500 each for Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, and Sen. Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, who was appointed to replace Sen. Richard Devlin and now seeks a full term in his own right in a reliably Democratic seat.

OHCA gave $2,000 to Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Ontario. Roblan is not up for re-election but nearly lost in 2016 as Coastal voters swung toward Donald Trump; Findley replaced Cliff Bentz, who was appointed to the Senate. Both Findley and Bentz are running for full terms in their new seats.

OHCA has also given $2,500 to Val Hoyle, the former House Democratic leader who seeks a return to public office in her nonpartisan statewide run for labor commissioner. She would replace Brad Avakian, who defeated her in a separate bid for secretary of state, a race he ultimately lost to Dennis Richardson.

Reach Chris Gray at [email protected]