Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District stretches from the southern corner of Washington County down to Polk County, and includes a diverse constituency of suburban Portland voters, Yamhill County farmers, Polk County loggers and Salem state workers. Voters in the newly-created district should choose veteran legislators Andrea Salinas, a Democrat from Lake Oswego, and Ron Noble, a Republican from Carlton, as their major-party nominees for the November election.
Democrats: In her five years representing House District 38-Lake Oswego, Salinas, 52, has shown herself to be effective in advancing Democratic priorities and negotiating wins. Having served as both chair and vice-chair of the House Health Care Committee in recent years, she has led legislative efforts to broaden the number of Oregonians eligible for coverage under the Oregon Health Plan and increase transparency into drug pricing.
But her experience in achieving policy objectives predates her days as a legislator. As a lobbyist working for organizations including NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, she has helped develop and pass such ground-breaking laws as Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act which expanded access to reproductive health services and codified a legal right to abortion. She also previously worked on staff for two California congressmen and former Oregon Rep. Darlene Hooley.
Her campaign isn’t without asterisks. Salinas lives outside the congressional district, although the boundaries overlap partially with her House District. Her progressive politics and alliances – she is a former lobbyist for the state’s largest public employee union, which has endorsed her – may not endear her to moderates and conservatives. Salinas was also the chief sponsor of a successful bill to mandate overtime pay for agricultural workers, a move that puts her at odds with many in the agriculture-heavy region. And she chaired the House committee on redistricting amid a storm of controversy over the map’s Democratic bias and former House Speaker Tina Kotek’s reneging on a deal to give Republicans equal say in drawing the lines.
But she has distinguished herself from other Democrats in some ways, including sponsoring a bill to impose strict campaign contribution limits that would apply even to unions – a step that many Democrats were unwilling to take. Unfortunately, the bill failed to advance. If elected, Salinas, whose father immigrated from Mexico, would also be the first Latino member of Oregon’s congressional delegation, reflecting the state and district’s growing Latino population.
While Salinas earns our endorsement, Kathleen Harder, a Salem physician, made a strong case for consideration. Harder’s perspective – one that she notes has been honed by living, working and raising a family in the district – reflects her well-informed, analytical and independent approach to issues that are too often boiled down to partisan slogans. As someone involved in various budget or legislation-related committees over the years, she understands the nuts and bolts of developing policies and watching for unintended consequences.
But it’s tough to give the nod to someone who hasn’t proven her effectiveness in elected office before, especially when whoever wins will be one representative among 435. We hope to see Harder aim for another seat on the state or local level where she could make an immediate difference.
The other candidates in this crowded field include Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon of Woodburn and former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith of Portland. Both bring considerable experience and perspective but fall short in comparison to Salinas and Harder in defining their vision. Democrats are best served by selecting Salinas.
Republicans: Noble, 62, a state representative for House District 24-McMinnville since 2017 with a decades-long career in law enforcement, is the clear choice in the Republican primary. The longtime resident of the district reflects both broad and deep understanding of the issues facing constituents and reflects his party’s traditional priorities for limited government and a strong economy.
Noble also brings a steady hand in navigating hot-button issues and an ability to work across partisan lines to negotiate meaningful legislation – especially notable considering Noble’s party has been in the minority for nearly a decade. As the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he collaborated with Chair Janelle Bynum, a Democrat from Clackamas, to pass about two dozen criminal justice reform bills in 2020 and 2021 with strong bipartisan support. Such reforms included requirements for police officers to report misconduct by fellow officers, use-of-force limitations and transparency provisions to strengthen police accountability. He also co-chaired the House Conduct Committee with Democrat Julie Fahey as the bipartisan committee twice recommended the expulsion of representatives – Rep. Diego Hernandez, a Democrat, who resigned over harassment allegations; and Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican, who was expelled for allowing right-wing rioters into the state Capitol.
If elected, Noble would focus on taming federal spending and inflation, encouraging economic resilience and promoting public safety. He also favors looking to the market than government to provide innovative solutions on addressing both climate change and housing. For example, he contends that rather than additional federal dollars, states can best address housing shortage by removing obstacles and creating an environment that encourages builders to build. He points out that despite hundreds of millions poured into affordable housing initiatives, the state remains as far behind as ever in developing enough housing to match the need.
His closest competitor is Nate Sandvig, an Army veteran and renewable energy developer whose main priorities include fighting inflation, supporting clean energy initiatives to establish energy independence and restoring common sense in Washington DC.
But Sandvig, 46, who lives just outside the district in Neskowin, does not show the same level of connection to the issues driving 6th District residents, nor does he have a robust platform. Similarly, none of the other candidates seeking the Republican nomination offered a compelling vision or established track record to support their candidacies. Republicans in the district should choose Noble.
–The Oregonian / OregonLive Editorial Board
For other endorsements in congressional races, visit oregonlive.com/opinion.
Editorials reflect the collective opinion of The Oregonian / OregonLive editorial board, which operates independently of the newsroom. Members of the editorial board are Therese Bottomly, Laura Gunderson, Helen Jung and John Maher.
Members of the board meet regularly to determine our institutional stance on issues of the day. We publish editorials when we believe our unique perspective can lend clarity and influence an upcoming decision of great public interest. Editorials are opinion pieces and therefore different from news articles.