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Democrat's primary decides election
NATHAN GILLES
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO

Northeast Portland Democrat and Nurse Practitioner Tom Sincic filed to run for the District 45 seat in the Oregon House against Barbara Smith Warner, who was recently appointed to fill the seat vacated by Michael Dembrow when he was elevated to the Senate. With registered Democrats substantially outnumbering Republicans in the district, the winner of the Democrat's primary is expected to easily win the seat in November.
COURTESY TOM SINCIC
This May, Parkrose voters could elect a new representative to Oregon House District 45.

In late December, Barbara Smith Warner, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore, and a long-time Portland labor and grassroots organizer, was appointed by Multnomah County Commissioners to fill the district seat formerly held by now Oregon State Senator Michael Dembrow.

Smith Warner's position is temporary, and who will fill that seat in 2015 could be decided as early as the upcoming May primary.

In January, Smith Warner registered with the Oregon Secretary of State to run in the May primary. She was not alone. Tom Sincic, a semi-retired nurse practitioner previously also in the running for the county appointment, also registered.

House District 45, which straddles Interstate 205 and includes Parkrose, is strongly Democratic. As of this writing, no Republicans have registered to run for seat in their own primary. It is also unlikely the Republicans will choose to run a candidate in the Democratic stronghold in the November election. This is one reason Sincic says he is running for the district seat: he wants to give voters a choice.

“I think there should be a real primary,” Sincic told the Memo in December shortly after Smith Warner's appointment to the district seat. Clarifying this earlier statement in a recent interview, Sincic said, “I still believe that the democratic process is important. And in this district, the primary is the only place [voters] can get that.”

In December, Sincic, along with Smith Warner, and a third candidate, Jamie Woods, were part of a selection pool nominated by Multnomah County Democrats to fill Dembrow's vacant seat when he was appointed to fill an Oregon Senate seat that had been vacated by Jackie Dingfelder.

In October, Dingfelder resigned from her senate seat after Portland Mayor Charlie Hales offered her a position on his staff.

According to Oregon law, a vacated legislative seat must be filled within 30 days. County commissioners are asked to appoint a replacement from a candidate pool selected by the party that formerly held the seat. Because Dembrow was a Democrat, the Multnomah County Democrats chose the candidates for the selection pool. It's here that we get a glimpse of how District 45 Democrats might vote in the May primary.

At the Nov. 8 meeting that produced the selection pool, Multnomah County Democrats held three rounds of votes to determine which nominees would end up in front of the county commissioners. Smith Warner was the clear favorite. In the first round, she received 41 of 49 votes, the most of any nominee in a single round. This eliminated her from needing to participate in further rounds.

Both Sincic and Woods had close races with each other before winning their respective elections against the other nominees. The trailing nominees were Enrique Arias, owner of Common Good Films, which makes movies for nonprofits with progressive causes, and Mathew Holland, a Northeast Portland lawyer. Arias was previously selected by county Democratic as a nominee for the vacated District 23 Senate seat. Arias lost the appointment to Dembrow.

Dembrow, whose appointment is also temporary, has registered for the May primary. As of this writing, he is running unopposed.

To date, only Sincic and Smith Warner have registered to run for the District 45 seat. Candidates need to file by the second Tuesday in March to qualify for the election.

“I care deeply about my community,” Sincic told the Memo. “[If elected], my plan is to go out and listen to people and bring a voice to Salem.”

Smith Warner told the Memo her focus right now is not the primary but the approaching session of Oregon legislature, which starts Feb. 3 and ends March 9. In this short session, lawmakers are allowed to introduce only one bill.

“My goal is to get through [the session], work and learn as much as I can, watch out for the district in everyway possible and come out of it with a skyrocketed-level of understanding of the process,” said Rep. Smith Warner.

Smith Warner sits on the Higher Education and Workforce Development, the Energy and Environment and Rules committees.

Smith Warner said she is cosponsoring about a dozen bills and has introduced her own bill, a memorandum asking the U.S. Congress to push for safety upgrades to oil tankers carried on train cars further.

Smith Warner's memorandum is partially in response to a January Oregonian article pointing out the potential dangers posed by the oil tankers.

“Many of these tank cars need to be updated and many need to be retrofitted because we know a lot more about safety now,” said Smith Warner.

As of this writing, Smith Warner had raised $4,450 through her election committee, Team BSW. Sincic, through Friends of Tom Sincic, raised $155.47.



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